It’s all about journalistic opinion credentials, and the false balance angle so common in newsrooms, especially in editorial, but they’ll take your op-ed. Write it now and send it to Movak’s home paper too. Perhaps separately from two writers?
RE #1: Casper Henderson has the right idea, but I would take it a step further. I don’t think the Post exercises editorial control over their columnists; they just published every piece that their columnists submit, and the Recent Time article apparently has caught the attention of Messers Will and Novak. People in the Climate Science community (and scientists everywhere) are righfully alarmed about the misrepresentation of the science, and I think it would be well within the rights of the authors of RealClimate, or anyone else in the Climate SCience community, to ask for column space (more than just a letter) to debunk the two columns.
In the UK, Hansen could sue the WP, the printer, and the author for defamation, and have the pleasure of the scientific record being assessed in open and well reported court.
Is this option open to him in the US, or would he need to bring the case over here ?
[Response: Hansen (and some of us as well) are considered "limited public figures". This makes it extremely difficult to win a libel or slander lawsuit, even thought it might be a slam dunk for any ordinary citizen. The perpetrators of these sorts of attacks know that, and they exploit it as we can see in this example. ]
Comment by Lewis Cleverdon — 4 Apr 2006 @ 11:53 AM
The Post op-eds will be widly reprinted. Any letter to the editor would only appear in the Post. To be effective, they would have to write to the many papers that have printed the op-eds, and hope the papers print the letters. Not a very effective way to deal with the problem.
As a biologist with a journalism degree and currently studying law the response is true. They are limited public figures and open to criticism from the unqualified, as shameful and cowardly as that is. Is it intentional? Sure but these jokers really don’t understand the science only the polictical hackery.
I am not a scientist, but I am a (mostly behind the scenes) lobbyist in Washington. I have seen how industries work to get favorable articles and op-eds published (in fact, I’ve done it myself a couple of times). No one should be under any misapprehension that the back-to-back columns by George Will and Robert Novak somehow represent a random confluence of two commentators deciding independently to write about the same subject. This is very clearly the result of a concerted effort by someone to try to turn public debate.
Under the circumstances, I don’t think it’s the usual suspects, such as the oil industry. For one thing, while Will and Novak are certainly more than willing to shill for Corporate America, the industry itself has split over this. I suspect that this is rather coming from the “highest levels” — i.e., Dick Cheney or Karl Rove. We need to remember that the global warming issue is not just a matter of economics for these skeptics — it goes to the core of their version of reality. That the earth might actually be warming because of human acts means that God is not taking care of them, that the American way of life is not the most perfect ever conceived, and that things are going to have to change, in ways that they find uncomfortable. Ultimately, I think, we are talking about psychological inability to accept the conclusions of empirical data.
The skeptics are losing the debate. The Bush Administration has been publicly embarrassed by the outcry over its attempts to muffle Hansen and other scientists, and chunks of the government are in open revolt. Witness the recent announcement by NASA that its scientists do not have to get clearance to speak to the public. I read the Will and Novak columns more as a pathetic attempt to reassure themselves than a genuine effort to influence the debate.
As far as the Washington Post goes, it has indeed become “Pravda on the Potomac.” The news staff is separate from the editorial staff, and the Post carries Will and Novak as regular columns, so they just publish pretty much whatever those fellows write. There can be no doubt, though; the Post does increasingly parrot the official Bush Administration line.
Thanks for this useful posting, and by no means am I defending the op-eds by George F. Will or Robert Novak — whose 14 July 2005 Washington Post column referred to “global warming hysteria” — but please consider a criticism: Your posting’s final paragraph blasting “what is happening at the Washington Post” seems to me to tend just a bit toward a counterproductive misunderstanding of what an op-ed page is at an enlightened newspaper like the Post.
It is one thing for blog commenters, hiding behind anonymity-conferring nicknames to avoid public responsibility for their contributions, to attack Will or Novak in an ad hominem way. But it is quite another for the RealClimate scientists themselves to impugn the Post’s entire op-ed operation for its failure to censor columnists whose climate-related opinions are irresponsible. The op-ed biz doesn’t work that way. It can’t work that way. It shouldn’t work that way.
If the Post did try to censor those men and justify the censorship as editorial oversight — which is the strong-arm tactic that you are advocating — there would be loud cries of Orwellianism. And it does not take a rocket engineer or a climate physicist to see that without free and unfettered open discussion — including the irritations and sometimes the outright offensiveness that can come with open debate — RC itself couldn’t exist.
It seems to me that it’s worth adding that the Post also prints op-ed columns by, for example, Anne Applebaum and David Ignatius, whose Jan. 18 column “Is It Warm in Here? We Could Be Ignoring the Biggest Story in Our History” included this line about Elizabeth Kolbert of the New Yorker: “Her three-part series last spring lucidly explained the harbingers of potential disaster: a shrinking of Arctic sea ice by 250 million acres since 1979; a thawing of the permafrost for what appears to be the first time in 120,000 years; a steady warming of Earth’s surface temperature; changes in rainfall patterns that could presage severe droughts of the sort that destroyed ancient civilizations.”
The Washington Post op-ed page and its policies are not the problem. The problem is the errors of the likes of Will and Novak and, at the Wall Street Journal, James Taranto.
It’s also worth noting that the columns or op-eds by Will and Novak are not “editorials.” You got that term right at the top of your posting, but wrong in the ending paragraph. And it matters. Editorials are unsigned essays over in the left-hand column representing the views of the paper’s editors. A good example for today’s discussion might be the Post’s Feb. 9 editorial called “The Politics of Science,” which ended with this paragraph during the time when Dr. Hansen and that young NASA political appointee George C. Deutsch were in the news: “In every administration there will be spokesmen and public affairs officers who try to spin the news to make the president look good. But this administration is trying to spin scientific data and muzzle scientists toward that end. NASA’s Mr. Hansen was right when he told the Times that Mr. Deutsch was only a bit player. ‘The problem is much broader and much deeper and it goes across agencies,’ he said. We agree.”
Editors who write things like that are not your opponents, and it seems to me that the last thing you should want for them to do is to start trying to dictate content to columnists — even if the scientific judgments in what Will and Novak are saying are so irresponsible as to seem preposterous.
Thanks for the chance to comment.
[Response: This is not a call for censorship. This is a call for the Post and other newspapers to consistently apply normal rules of journalistic ethics. When Jason Blair was caught fabricating material for his NYT articles, he was out on his ear, and a major scandal ensued. Linda Chavez lost her column at the Chicago Tribune because she failed to reveal her ties to Republican activist organizations. Heck, John Green was just suspended from his position as a producer of ABC news for a mildly immoderate comment about the President in a PRIVATE EMAIL -- a comment that was far less inflammatory and far less inaccurate than any of Novak's statements about Hansen. It is not acceptable journalistic practice to argue your case by repetition of things that are known to be false. --raypierre]
[Response: Thanks to you (and other commenters below) for some very thoughtful comments. I am learning something about the US newspaper system. And I fully agree that there should be a forum for opinion columns, expressing diverse opinions not censored by the editors, and we have that in European papers as well. Our concern is with quality: I would expect that the "quality newspapers" don't just print any nonsense, but that they select columnists that stand for a certain journalistic quality - including getting their basic facts right. Or are these old-fashioned values? -stefan]
Comment by Steven T. Corneliussen — 4 Apr 2006 @ 12:31 PM
It’s not all bad at the Post. David Ignatius has a couple of recent op eds:
This is what happens when people are losing. It’s a natural human reaction, and a clue.
When a dog is backing away and barking ferociously, you don’t stick your hand in there to close its mouth and stop the barking. You step back and say ‘nice doggie’ and go about your business, while keeping an eye on the dog.
And you don’t crow about how the dog was afraid of you and backed off. And you don’t add to the noise by barking either, and 5 dogs barking is just a cacophony and people tune the dogs out after awhile.
A point by point would be nice, about the worst I can say is the graph at the State of Fear link shows three black lines, and one red line.
What strikes me as odd is that the worst case scenario is given a bold black line suggesting it is the most significant prediction. Since the Red line shows a bolded secction for what was actually observed, this is not necessariIy what was actually shown in 1988. Just that original graph would be a good thing. If that original graph also shows a bold black line for the worst-case-scenario, then I would be partly suspicious as I would have made the most-likely-case prediction a bold black one. The usage of the bold and black may have contributed to the porblem.
Also, is 0.8 oF a reasonable number for a worst case scenario prediction??? That this number was so very far from the most-likely-case, and the best-case was so close also lends to possible suspicion.
It would be interesting to know why Novak’s ad hominem op-ed was removed from the Washington Post website the very next day. I guess the quality of the commentary doesn’t measure up to the Post’s standards. It must be embarrassing for him. It does make clear the reason to stash an article you’re posting the url for.
You guys raise important issues about whether “opinion” writers should be allowed to print outright misinformation. But I agree with other commenters that there is perhaps too much singling out of the poor Washington Post. What’s rotten is the cavalier way that scientific information in general gets treated by these conservative pundits: http://scienceblogs.com/intersection/2006/04/science_opinion_writing_and_jo.php
Ah, Bob Novak. Didn’t he claim that the clean water act would ruin the US economy? My quick google didn’t find it, but there’s an interesting transcript some might find interesting (warning: partisan politics in this CNN thing between Nader and Novak; some crossover with the Bush thread):
BOND: They’re natural. Arsenic occurs in natural occurrences.
NOVAK: Exactly. Now, the 10 parts is…
NADER: The 10 parts per billion is European standard.
NOVAK: Well, the Europeans do everything wrong.
NOVAK: But let me just tell you, Mr. Nader, the American Water Works Association, I think they know what to do, they’ve been frantic until they were saved by President Bush. It was going to cost them 1.4 billion, 1.4 billion, to convert their — to take care of this Clinton standard and 600 million a year. Is the whole green, Nader plan just to put American business out of work so the people are on the bread lines.
NADER: Where do you get those figures, Bob?
NOVAK: The American Water Works Association.
NADER: Did you examine them or do you think they’re a little exaggerated?
NOVAK: I think they’re totally accurate.
NADER: How much do think thousands of cancer victims and bladder victims and all kinds of other consequence of arsenic for 15 million Americans who are exposed and that standard is supposed to protect…
NOVAK: What’s your evidence of that?
NADER: That’s the studies that were made on it, National Academy of Sciences, as Bill mentioned. Here’s the point: Don’t get on the side, Bob, of defending arsenic. It’s a loser. Believe me.
NOVAK: Let me defend CO2, which is carbon dioxide which something we breathe out every day, and the president was asked March 14th in New Jersey if he was responding to pressure when he reversed a very foolish campaign statement he made.
There is also a trend of opinion columnists on the conservative side not to have graduated from college. Like Mr. Deutsch, who without a degree even in journalism felt qualified to edit scientific conclusions of teams of Ph.D’s. They are really that smug. In that group are John Fund and James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal. Both failed to graduate from my alma mater Cal State.
Thanks for so many good comments here, I feel much better than 10 minutes ago! Dano is right, we need to breathe deep and let the sunshine in ;)
An oped signed by Real Climate is a great idea. Roger Pielke might shake his finger at you again, but even he acknowledges that political communications from the climate scientists is unavoidable and necessary. If you stick to the facts and clearly support everything you say, as usual, it could be “good politicization” and a *very* effective contrast to the screaming talking heads.
I also agree that this represents a descent into the next phase and therefore progress, but I am not yet sure if I am optimistic about how this phase will play out.
1. Novak’s column was absurd. Welcome to the political rough and tumble.
2. It was a column, not an op-ed. Novak is a syndicated columnist. The WP probably did not exercise any decision about running it other than to check the word count.
3. Expressing outrage, writing letters to newspapers will ensure his job security. Ann Coulter, Michael Moore, Bill O’Reilly, and Paul Krugman et al. earn their keep t some degree by being outragous. If you want to do something, listen to the suggestions above about a point-by-point response. Novak has been in far more controversial situations, I doubt that complaints will get anyone’s serious attention.
4. You write that some have criticized RC allow the following lines — “Hey, you actually care about the fire being put out, so you’re politically motivated!” On the off chance the you might be obliquely referencing your friendly colleague in Boulder, let me be very clear. I have criticized RC, but not for being politically motivated. My criticism is based on being politically motivated AND at the same time stating: “we will not get involved in political or economic issues that arise when discussing climate change.” We are all politically motivated and tehre is nothing wrong with that.
5. Data point: Bjorn Lomborg’s book’s sales quadrupled when the Scientific American criticisms came out. The best way to gain an upper hand in the political/public debate is to define the agenda yourself and make him come to you, rather than vice versa. On the science, you won’t be threatened until Novak appears in the peer-reviewed literature!
Two cents from a political scientist … ;-)
Comment by Roger Pielke Jr. — 4 Apr 2006 @ 2:34 PM
WRT Dano’s comment in 10,
I don’t see that this particular ferociously barking dog is backing away, nor that we can afford to “be patient and go about our business”, given just the current casualties through drought & famine, let alone those projected if we fail to agree the global constraint of GHG outputs in timely manner.
For over 3 decades I’ve seen scientists being patient and going about their business, which someone has convinced them is of informing the governments, and not the populace, of threats and opportunities.
This conduct has been to no noticeable avail, as on practically all counts of resource destruction humanity is now substantially worse off now than it was 3 decades ago.
Therefore I reject the ‘received wisdom’ of science remaining aloof from the politics of the issues it seeks to address.
Hence, with respect, I would ask again whether Hansen would do well to bring a case for defamation against Novac, the WP and the printer in a British court, where shills have no immunity from being held to account for libel,
and the case would attract worldwide attention to the cogency of scientists’ concerns ?
I started to compose a letter to the Chicago Sun Times criticizing Novak’s column. But I thought it would be better coming from Ray, who after all, is a distinguished faculty member at the University of Chicago, and speaks with much greater authority than I can muster. I hope he writes one, and I hope the Sun Times will feel obligated to publish it.
[Response: And don't forget Dave Archer either -- though I think we ought to let him off the hook for any more writing on this, since he's done more than his share recently. All that notwithstanding, I think you ought to go ahead and write your own letter anyway. Newspapers like to see opinion from a wide spectrum of the public, and even if they don't publish everything, I know that the Editors get some sense of feedback from the volume on various topics. Besides, who's to say that they'll like my letter more than yours? The more the merrier, and the more chance they'll publish at least one letter on the subject. --raypierre]
Although I know I am stepping into a minefield, I have a few comments to make about Dr. Hansen’s 1988 testimony. I went over to the government documents section of the University of Virginia library (an approach that some readers find novel) and copied the pages from June 23rd, 1988 hearing before the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the United States Senate of the One Hundredth Congress, First Session on the Greenhouse Effect and Global Climate Change, Part 2. In is at this hearing that Dr. Hansen gave his testimony around which all of this swirls.
It is made up of three parts: 1) a transcript of his oral remarks before the committee, 2) a copy of his written statement, and 3) Attachment A which is a preprint of his 1988 paper which was to appear in JGR.
In his oral statement, he refers to viewgraphs that are not reproduced in the Congressional Record, but that, as best as I can determine, are the same Figures that are contained in his written statement (sans one on the frequency of heat waves in Washington DC and Omaha, NE which was probably derived from his JGR paper).
RealClimate is incorrect when they state that they “set” things “right” back in 2004 writing that “In fact in his testimony, Hansen ONLY showed results from scenario B, and stated clearly that it was the most probable scenario.”
In fact, Hansen showed a viewgraph that was probably the same as his Figure 3 in his written statement (which was the same as his Figure 3a in his JGR preprint and similar to the one presented by RealClimate here (without the updated observed record)). In his oral testimony concerning this graphic, Dr. Hansen stated:
The other curves in this figure [besides the observations] are the results of global climate model calculations for three scenarios of atmospheric trace gas growth. We have considered several scenarios because there are uncertainties in the exact trace gas growth in the past and especially in the future. We have considered cases ranging from business as usual, which is scenario A, to draconian emission cuts, scenario C, which would totally eliminate net trace gas growth by year 2000.
The main point to be made here is that the expected global warming is of the same magnitude as the observed warming…
Dr. Hansen continues but makes no more reference to the model scenarios as they pertain to global average temperature.
Later in his oral testimony, he shows another viewgraph of the spatial patterns of temperature in the future that are based upon scenario B, but he makes no comment about the choice of scenario B (other than describing it as the “intermediate trace gas scenario”).
In his written testimony, Dr. Hansen, includes the Figure of global annual average temperature projections described above (including all three trace gas scenarios) and writes:
Causal association of current global warming with the greenhouse effect requires determination that (1) the warming is larger than natural climate variability, and (2) the magnitude and nature of the warming is consistent with the greenhouse warming mechanism. Both of these issues are addressed quantitatively in Fig. 3, which compares recent observed temperature change with climate model simulation of temperature changes expected to result from the greenhouse effect….
We have made computer simulations of the greenhouse effect for the period since 1958, when atmospheric CO2 began to be measured accurately. A range of trace gas scenarios is considered so as to account for moderate uncertainties in trace gas histories and larger uncertainties in future trace gas growth rates. The nature of the numerical climate model used for these simulations is described in attachment A [the JGR preprint].
There is no other statement concerning the scenarios or any statement at all about the preference of one over the others. Later in his written testimony, Dr. Hansen shows a figure of the spatial patterns of temperature change that results from the use of scenario B (without commenting why he chose scenario B).
So, the Congressional Record shows that Hansen did in fact show the global temperature projections from all three scenarios (despite what RealClimate contends) and also, that he made no statement as to which one he thought was more likely. He did, however, refer to Scenario A as “business as usual.”
This said however, in the JGR preprint attached to his written statement, is it stated (after describing the three scenarios) that “Scenario B is perhaps the most plausible of the three cases.”
What I take from all of this is that while Dr. Hansen may have preferred his Scenario B, he made no strong indication to this preference while he presented the results from all three scenarios before Congress. And that oversight is what has left the door open for later interpretations of what his intentions were in his testimony.
In light of the actual testimony, and in an effort to portray the true facts to their blog readership, I hope that RealClimate will mollify its statement that “In fact in his testimony, Hansen ONLY showed results from scenario B, and stated clearly that it was the most probable scenario.” For it is an inaccurate representation of what occurred during the actual oral and written testimony Dr. Hansen presented before Congress on June 23rd, 1988, at least as it was recorded in the Congressional Record.
[Response: Hansen's statement on the subject is available here: http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/hansen_re-crichton.pdf . In it he makes clear that other than the figure with three scenarios, all results shown in the testimony were from scenario B, which was described as the 'most plausible'. Thus our statement was not incorrect. With respect to how realistic the projections were, we can look at the actual numbers. Over the period 1988 to 2005, the different scenarios showed trends of 0.35, 0.19 and 0.24 deg C/decade for A, B, and C respectively. This can be compared to the GISS analyses of global temperature changes of 0.18 and 0.21 deg C/decade (for the met station index and the land-ocean index). Up to 2000 the forcings scenarios for B and C are identical, and so the difference between then is more a measure of the internal variability rather than a forced response. To some extent this match was fortuitous - the climate sensitivity of the model at that time was around 4.2deg C (a little on the high side of the best estimate) though 17 years is too short for this to be a big effect. Additionally, the forcing scenario was only for CO2 - the fact that the additional real world forcings (which include the other greenhouse gases, aerosols, solar, ozone etc.) basically cancel out over this period is lucky. However, given the primitiveness of the experiment and the elements of chance, the scenario B projection was actually a good prediction. There can be no way that any of the projections can be described as being in 'error by 300%'. Michael's characterisation of the Hansen testimony and his exclusive focusing on scenario A (including deleting scenarios B and C from the graph) is unsustainable on any reading of the evidence. Maybe you'd like to make a comment on that? -gavin]
Someone who has worked in a newsroom please correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding is that there is no fact-checking to speak of at newspapers. Magazines employ fact-checkers, but newspaper reporters are responsible for themselves.
But there’s another point of confusion here; namely, the op-ed pages work by a completely different set of rules than the rest of the paper. You’re reading opinion, plain and simple, and it’s not governed by the same journalistic standards that apply to reporters. Reporters cannot express an opinion but columnists have the liberty to say what they want and cherry-pick the facts and figures all they like. You can wish it were otherwise, but that’s the convention. And people who read papers need to understand that distinction. As a result there’s a gulf between what you see reported in, say, the Wall Street Journal, which does some very good environmental reporting, and what you read in its editorial section, which tends toward rabid partisanship.
In any case, good luck in setting the record straight.
Get over it. Your side of the debate is far more abusive and denigrating towards the skeptics than anything they throw your way. You even have your own “oh-so-clever” nicknames for us.
Plenty of skeptics have legitimate concerns with the science, and are in fact more qualified than most climate scientists in the areas that prompt concern. In my case, I am an expert on dynamical systems and modelling, and have found that nearly all climate experts really don’t know what they are talking about in this area – se eg this thread: http://illconsidered.blogspot.com/2006/03/models-are-unproven.html
But instead of admitting your ignorance, or admitting any problems, you give a blanket endorsement to skeptic-denigrating sites like the above, even though it is clear that the author of that site is way out of his depth.
If your side of the debate would grow up, stop blanket ad-hominem attacks on skeptics, and start admitting knowledge gaps, maybe we skeptics would accord you more respect. As things stand, you don’t deserve it.
A new geologic era, caused by mankind, is already upon us. If the world does not immediately reduce all greenhouse gas emmissions by at least 80% right now, we will lose the battle.The thermohaline North Atlantic current has begun its shutdown. The coral reefs are dying.Permafrost and glaciers are melting. The tipping point has past, say many scientists already.US must institute CO2 credit markets, target $30 -50 per ton,right now.Soon CO2 taxes will issue to go jogging, never mind driving a car.
Mark J. Fiore, self taught follower of all stories global warming related, environmental activist, lawyer, and substitute teacher, SFUSD.
[Response: I sympathize with some of your sentiments, but I do think your statement exaggerates how close we are to disaster, and the nature of the response needed to head of major problems. It is certainly not necessary to reduce all greenhouse gas emissions "right now," (and it would be terrible if that were necessary, since the chances of doing so are just about nil). If we manage to prevent too many pulverized coal power plants from being built and keep world emissions more or less flat or gently decreasing for the next two decades, there's room to head off some of the worst consequences by sharper reductions in the rest of the century. Agreed it would have been better if we had started doing all this ten years ago, but it's a lot like smoking. Even if you stop late, you still do better than if you continue. Finally, it has not been established that there is a "tipping point" anywhere between 1xCO2 and 4XCO2. Towards the higher end, you start to worry about melting Greenland, and so forth, but there's no one point where everything goes wrong all at once. Certainly, it is worth not being complacent, given that a lot of the CO2 we put in the atmosphere today will still be altering climate in a thousand years, and maybe longer. --raypierre]
Re: #17, “3. Expressing outrage, writing letters to newspapers will ensure his job security. Ann Coulter, Michael Moore, Bill O’Reilly, and Paul Krugman et al. earn their keep t some degree by being outragous.”
It is unfair to lump Krugman in with those other three blowhards. Krugman is more qualified to speak about the economy than 99.999% of Americans. In fact, he is probably just short of John Kenneth Galbraith’s stature in terms of experience and scholarly achievements (though much shorter physically, Galbraith being 6’8”). Any reference to Krugman being outrageous throws your entire post into question.
Let’s see… the thrust of #23 is that the people convinced of the reality and danger of AGW are abusive and denigrating. And in making this point you say “get over it”, “nearly all climate experts really don’t know what they are talking about in this area”, climate scientists don’t “admit their ignorance”, don’t “admit any problems”, they shoud “grow up”, “stop ad hominem attacks [!?!]” and they don’t deserve respect.
Do you not have any sense of irony?
I urge anyone who has any doubts about the patience and time someone like Gavin has for self proclaimed “experts” who are climate sceptics, even when they hide behind anonimity, to visit the comments in the above link and draw their own conclusion.
Re: #23, “Plenty of skeptics have legitimate concerns with the science, and are in fact more qualified than most climate scientists in the areas that prompt concern.”
Heck no! Most of these “skeptics” cannot understand the climate system to the same degree as climatologists. It is the climate system that prompts the most concern and not anything else. Like what will a change in the climate system do to the hydrologic cycle:
McIntyre, McKitrick, Essex, Lomborg, etc., are some examples of those who cannot measure up to a Drs. Mann, Schmidt, Bradley, Hansen, et al. in regards to issues relating to the climate system.
Anonymous, you are completely off-base in your comment in #23. Everything you say is wrong, with the exception of “In my case, I am an expert on dynamical systems and modelling”, though since you sign your name as “Anonymous”, even that is unverifiable.
Why don’t you actually use your real name? At least you can use something that will identify you to the moderators so at least they can know who you are.
I hate to disagree with Chris Mooney, whom I very much admire, but scientific information is just a special case – it’s true information they don’t like that these guys attack (along with the bearers of that information), and they have no scruples about how they do it.
And to Stephen Berg: Given the current state of public discourse in this country, Paul Krugman is indeed outrageous, precisely because he is a scholar and is careful to get his facts right. Needless to say, the New York Times had no idea what they were getting when they hired him.
RE #25. Coby, they give you a free-rein here because you suit their propaganda purposes. But that doesn’t make it any less propaganda. When the environmentalists/climatologists stop denigrating skeptics I’ll have more respect for them. But as a skeptic (on certain issues) who understands what he is talking about, the ad-hominem attacks from the other side simply serve to reduce my respect for them as scientists.
Rather than forcing everyone to read that thread, perhaps you could summarize it for us here? After all, you are the one claiming that skeptics like me don’t know what we’re talking about when we claim there are fundamental modelling issues. Presumably you understand well-enough what was discussed to present a reasonable precis?
[Response: Folks, please stick to presenting factual arguments that are interesting to our readers - general accusations are not. Thanks, stefan]
I may not be qualified in climatology but I am Qualified in health and safety and take issue with sceptics on one fact, risk assesment, if there is a low risk of catastrophic consequences then an action plan should be implemented, just the same as a high risk with lesser consequences.
Therefore please take issue with the sceptic community in everyway you can and write your rebutal, for the sake of those without a voice, the risk no matter how great or small is not worth taking, it is better we do what we can even if proved wrong in the future than do nothing and our future generations have no future.
Re: #27, “Coby, they give you a free-rein here because you suit their propaganda purposes. But that doesn’t make it any less propaganda.”
“Anonymous”, there is no such thing as propaganda in science. It is a matter of being either RIGHT or WRONG.
The skeptics with whom you empathise are WRONG. They have been WRONG in the past and they continue to be WRONG at the present. Judging by this, it is safely assumed that they will continue to be WRONG in the future.
Your denegrations (sp?) of Dr. Hansen are completely unfounded. Dr. Hansen brought the climate change issue to the attention of policymakers in 1988 with the hypothesis that the planet would warm greatly as a result of greenhouse gas emissions. You know what? He was RIGHT!
People like Pat Michaels, Fred Singer, Sherwood Idso, et al., disagreed and tried to argue against Dr. Hansen’s pronouncements. You know what? They were WRONG!
And “Anonymous”, since you claim to be a modelling expert, do you know the difference between a weather and a climate model, or are you trying to be like Richard Lindzen and confuse people by saying such tripe as “If they can’t predict the weather in a five-day forecast, how can we expect them to be right in 25 years?”
It does seem odd to me that Hansen keeps complaining about being censored by the current Administration, but he “gets” to appear at, of all places, 60 minutes. Now, don’t you think Novak has a point on this?
[Response: Remember, this appearance is AFTER NASA got caught out trying to filter all of Hansen's comments through a minder. The Times broke the story January 29. According to the 60 Minutes transcript, Hansen was only allowed to participate with a NASA official present recording the interview. The transcript also states that other interviews were cancelled. As far as I can tell, NASA is now doing an earnest job of allowing their scientists to speak openly. You don't get to know about the CNN appearances and so forth that NASA may have cancelled or intercepted before the change of policy. As for Hansen's earlier public appearances, it was evidently the traction he was gaining that lead NASA to try to rein him in. He is prominent enough that he was able to resist successfully, but I wonder how many helpless young researchers fearful for their jobs self-censored themselves. The blow-up over NASA's attempts to muzzle Hansen seems to have had a salutary effect. Let's just hope it outlives the spotlight. -raypierre]
I have to say I pretty much agree with everything Roger Pielke says in #17. (And to the subsequent poster, just because you agree with Krugman — and I usually do — doesn’t mean he isn’t outrageous).
I’m especially intrigued by his last point about Lomborg’s sales. My question is: How did Bjorn Lomborg manage to get so many level-headed folks all in a froth, and why didn’t they realize they were only increasing his exposure? It seemed clear that Lomborg’s arguments were too easily dismantled to be so threatening to so many people and yet the rebuttals quickly became overheated and, yes, disrespectful. The scientists who took umbrage to the mere fact that an associate professor in statistics would dare question their findings … well, they missed the point. If Lomborg isn’t entitled to question you, does that mean that journalists, politicians and taxpayers aren’t entitled to either? While I find “Anonymous” in #23 to be totally out of line (and off-balance) his remarks did make me mindful of the arrogance some of Lomborg’s critics displayed.
In any event, the passion the Lomborg attacks generated only seemed to lend credence to his arguments. (Consider the old Shakespeare line about protesting too much.) If anyone has more insight or would care to reflect on the whole Lomborg brouhaha, I’d be interested to hear it.
As for Novak and Will, I’d say the tide is turning against their brand of willful ignorance. Of course, that takes a frustratingly long time to overcome and time isn’t something we have an overabundance of. What’s interesting to me about this debate is that the level of complexity/uncertainty is enough that I fear most of us (and perhaps Will and Novak are in this camp) simply believe what we want to believe based on their views of how the world and the universe are wired. For some folks, it is simply unthinkable that we may have upset the climate system, unwittingly or otherwise.
How do you change their minds? Beats me. Somehow, they need to see the burning building with their own eyes.
I don’t think my “rein” here is any more free than yours, you are being published just the same as I am. I actually thought about swearing at you just so I could be censored! LOL! But then I would have to swallow the rest of your bait too…
Anyway, this is not constructive in any way whatsoever, so don’t look forward to any more comments from me unless you offer some substance of some sort.
What constitutes “to consistently apply normal rules of journalistic ethics”?
Should the rules of journalistic ethics be more inclusive than normal when dealing with global warming? Is it unethical for journalists to ignore important material related to global warming?
For example …
A Jan. 16, 2001 letter stated:
“You alleged a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety and gross mismanagement by officials at the Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Weather Service (NWS), North Central River Forecast Center (NCRFC), Chanhassen, Minnesota”. … “Specifically, you allege that NWS is not handling the issue of global warming in a way that best serves the interest of the public”. … â??Should you wish to pursue this matter further, you may contact the Department of Commerce, Office of Inspector General.” â?¦ (Letter to me from Attorney T. Biggs, U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) while I was a NOAA NWS employee).
A Jan. 31, 2006 letter stated:
“In knowing that*, I believe that my concerns about hydrologic climate change in the Upper Midwest and about global warming, which were identified in OSC File No. DI-00-2100, need to be discussed with scientists in NASA in order to gain a full understanding of the state of the science in Dec 2000, Jan 2001; and currently. For that reason, I request that the matters described at the beginning of this letter be pursued further.” …
(Letter from me to the Department of Commerce, Office of Inspector General)
* That NASA’s mission includes “to understand and protect our home planet”.
As of today, I have not received a response from the DOC Office of Inspector General. If the material above was sent to a journalist with a request to do something with it, would the journalist have a ethical responsibility to do something with it?
Dear Anonymous (#23): i would be happy to discuss your critique of the consensus on global warming off line. Perhaps I am old-fashioned but I suspect that we can have a calmer and more productive conversation without every word becoming part of a public record. Based on 25 years of climate dynamics research, I am convinced that the consensus position is indeed correct. I am not interested in categorizing people as skeptics or anything else. Google me to check on my credentials and get the ball rolling if serious.
Information and opinion are different things; so is information and propaganda. Propaganda is defined as selectively choosing information in order to get a desired response. Disinformation is outright fabrication of false information. Take a look at this John Hopkins University site on evaluating Internet ‘info’: Information counterfeits.
Are Novak and Will guilty of propaganda or disinformation? Perhaps a little of both. Certainly they should be challenged on this issue by whatever means you feel comfortable with – write a letter, or even call up the Post and request that they invite a rebuttal from Dr. Hansen, which certainly seems fair.
What is curious here is that we don’t see op-ed pieces claiming that there is no ozone hole over the Antarctic, or op-ed pieces claiming that all the photos coming back from Mars have been faked by the Jet Propulsion Lab, or anything ridiculous like that. Consider what the Exxonmobil funded think tank Competetive Enterprise Insitute has been up to – feeding stories to Fox News that were written by its ‘fellows’. This is a pretty standard PR technique of using inside contacts with journalists to plant stories. Here is a random selection of a company that can do this for you: typical PR press business
Of course, regulations that limit CO2 emissions as well as a shift in government subsidies away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy systems would result in a kind of economic upheaval. Something like 60% of Wall Street underwriting is in energy and fossil fuels. Change is therefore a difficult proposition, and thus we see these op-ed pieces, which rely heavily on personal attacks rather then any kind of rational scientific argument.
Re # 17, Roger you’ve finally written something worth considering. Making bombastic statements clearly creates a response, which then builds up drama and interest. Thus your blog, Prometheus, which functions as little more than a droll advertorial for all things Pielke. Time to move on.
It was an okay ceremony. Got to see Gloria Steinemn, for whatever that’s worth. I like Piltz. Good guy. One of the smartest I’ve met when it comes to climate change policy. He has been wired into the inner workings for well over a decade and is well respected by insiders and scientists.
But it was nice to see that Jim Hansen declined the award. He’s far to busy getting back to science.
One of my friends recently had a student give her his opinion of global warming: “I’m in favor”, he said.
Now, what kind of a reaction is that? Are you for or against Pythagoras theorem? What happened to the notion that science is about uncovering truth, and that facts exist independently of people’s opinions? Do people consider
that these “hot” topics are all a matter of opinion?
I am for abortion rights, against Daylight Saving Time, and for Global Warming…
RE #35: I certainly am being censored – many of my comments don’t appear. Their only distinguishing characteristic is that they point out the bias on your side of the debate. No doubt this post will be censored too, but we can always hope (actually, I have given up hope on this forum – through lack of objectivity it has clearly demonstrated itself to be yet another environmentalist propaganda shill. A shame really).
And how is it not constructive for me to ask you to summarize a thread from your blog? Given your reluctance to do so, one would be forgiven for concluding that maybe, just maybe, you really don’t know what you are talking about.
[Response: No, their only distinguishing characteristic is that they are pointless and uninformative flame-bait. Anybody who wants to pursue that offline can do so at the email address you report to us: email@example.com. Good luck. --raypierre]
RIGHT is not a scientific principle. As an analytical scientist, I can vouch that scientific measurements are never “right”. All measurements contain some error. And part of what makes good analysts worth their keep is their ability to quantify that error and propagate it correctly when comparing their results to those from other experiments or predictions.
One common and flimsy logical attack against natural science in general, and climate in particular, it this: Detail X is wrong, therefore all related conclusions must be completely thrown out. There is no attempt to show what sensitivity the conclusions have to wrongness of that detail, or to quantify exactly how wrong it is. It is important to remember that, even though all measurements are wrong, some are more wrong than others.
People often try to stir up argument by pretending to favor the side they oppose, then writing outrageously exaggerated or offensive comments; if they get published and people believe who they pretend to be, they blacken their opponents’ reputation; if they aren’t published, then claiming censorship is a workable fallback.
This isn’t peculiar to this subject, this forum, this medium, or this millenium for that matter. It’s an old tactic, and one to remember.
Posting anonymously calls for posting very politely and thoughtfully and including enough info to establish that “anonymous” in one post is the same as the author of another, to build any credibility.
Personal opinon, nothing more.
I have to give a speech in my debate class that argues that global warming is normal. Where on earth can I find credible sources that state that? I really need help. Thanks!
[Response: It depends what you mean by "global warming" and what you mean by "normal." The Earth warms going from a glacial to an interglacial. I guess that's normal. The typical interglacial temperature is far lower than the temperature we'll reach if we double CO2. Heck, the globe warms every July, because there's more land in the Northern than the Summer Hemisphere. That's normal, too I guess. The globe was a lot warmer during the Cretaceous, due to millions of years of buildup of CO2 from volcanoes. That's normal. What's not normal is anthropogenic global warming, where you turn the clock back about 10 million years in a century. That's not normal. --raypierre]
Once you can explain all the different natural causes we know for climate change, and the physics of the atmosphere that capture heat, you can take people through upwards of 650,000 years, maybe a million years, in which global warming and cooling have happened. All of them are natural events.
You can also prove for example that thermal warming is natural. You could show a solar oven, use a magnifying glass to heat something, use a fire drill for fire by friction, mix alcohol and water and show the increase in temperature, break a hunters’ heatpack and show chemical heating from oxidation of iron filings, maybe get a spark coil and show heating by electrical sparking. All those prove thermal heating is natural.
Or, if your teacher has no sense of humor, you could start at exxonsecrets.com for example — you can borrow arguments there that Exxon and other companies paid many tens of thousands of dollars to have written and published.
For tactics, see anything written by Stanton Glantz describing how the tobacco companies argued that lung cancer is normal — you’ll find some familiar names, if you look through the footnotes.
The latter may be closer to what your teacher expects.
Re #47. You state that the speech is for debate class. Now, having a history of debating (that noble art), let me assure you that actual scientific correctness is not really as important as how you present it. You mearly need “arguments” supported by “sources” and a wee bit o rhetoric. I would suggest that the contents of this thread alone (plus the two op ed pieces) would give you enough to baffle the “other side.” You see, a classic debate format is just three people vs. three over a period of 30 minutes or so. It’s all about the “sound bite” and not about what’s really going on. If you are interested in the real dynamics of the climate system, I suggest a few years of study at least. I know I’ve been studying from some of the main contributors to this forum for three years, and can only just follow the postings. But a debate? No problem! I think I could argue either side as long as the total debate was limited to 30 minutes and no one was able to follow up. I hope you “win” your debate, and thereby show the difference between the court of public opinion (in the short term) and the court of scientific knowledge. Good luck!
To Jamie Schwartz, #47, on how to argue “global warming” is normal. From one who has concluded the opposite, much to my morose chagrin, your task is easy.
You do not need credible sources to craft rhetoric to assert a “global warming” is normal–you just need published sources. Get a copy of the book, “Global Warming and Other Eco-Myths” for the library. Read quotes from it. Wave it around. Present an air of outrage. Show charts–any charts will do. Show the ice cover retreat from North America, and point out how ice has been retreating for years. Tell your audience that the deep ocean is still warming from the last ice age. Yes, the climate is warming, as it should be. Humans thrive in a warm climate, and so do plants. That is so obvious. We need to use common sense, says you…
And ask people, how often have they been mislead. Here it comes again. Get some Richard Lindzen quotes on the NASA website on the Iris Hypothesis. Select your evidence for your case and ignore contrary evidence. Make a simple message, and repeat it over and over. Be taken aghast.
Just to be clear: as one who has concluded that Anthropogenic Climate Change is expressing a very clear signal, with all the work done to lay a framework for confusion by Western Fuels Association, et al, I’d think that opposite point of view–in the relativistic world of argument–in lieu of the true evidence realm of science–would be a piece of cake… If you opponent makes headway, retreat to the simple message s you have made easy pickings for the audience.
Key message words are: common sense, proven variability, obvious.
[Response: Good advice, but don't follow it all, Jamie. Don't cite Lindzen's so-called "Iris Effect", because it does not support your claim that global warming is normal - rather it means that global warming cannot happen because a strong negative feedback prevents it. -stefan]
[Response: Yes, the Iris effect, if correct, would seem to indicate that global warming cannot occur by ANY means, natural or anthropogenic. It raises the question of how we got out of the last ice age, how Cretaceous climates got warm, etc. If one accepts that there is indeed a 20th and 21st century warming trend, the Iris idea would make problems for any plausible explanation for the trend, not just anthropogenic greenhouse gas increases. I'm somewhat caricaturing the implications of the Iris, but not much; these considerations point in the right direction to see where the problems lie. --raypierre]
[Response:I think that was Ray's point. We would not publish someone's real e-mail address without their consent. -stefan]
[Response: Exactly. In fact, to make sure I wasn't jumping to conclusions, I verified that this was an invalid email address before posting it. If it had checked out, of course I wouldn't have posted it. --raypierre]
About the climate debate being “just” an unproven theory: considers this extended Gaia-theory. To the open mind it will maybe put the whole climate debate in a greater context.
So consider this: the earth got a consciousness, so do we as mankind. What if mankind recently declared itself ready to learn â?? then mother earth will answer, of course in its physical boundaries. So we get what we asked for. And it will lead to a massive rise in consciousness instead of self-destruction.
With Central Europe on the doorstep of another century flooding that is exactly what is happening right now in Europe. And what will happen in the U.S. once the next big hurricane will hit this year: another wake-up call from mother earth to mass consciousness. So wait and see: considering the law of time (www.lawoftime.org) and the physical boundaries it might as well be the 13th month this year for you guys. Yes 13 months or moons, this is the natural time, it is the rhythm of biology, the rhythm of the female cycle as well. Change your time, change your mind, and change what will be materialized out of the flow of time. There is even a U.N.-petition you can sign in to change the calendar 2012. And with the fall of the modern Babylon towers (9/11) the old artificial time table originating from Babylon has fallen already. Like rats in a most of purely mind-oriented mankind just has not taken notice yet.
Yes this is only a vision: the closing of the (26â??000year) cycle in 2012/2013. But it is the only one I know, that is able to turn around the steering wheel in due time.
Well of course it is easy to say: this is nonsense. But maybe you consider it as a wake-up call as well and first you just study the subject, then you study your soul and get within the flow of time. After that you will maybe not only know, but just feel earth consciousness. And instead of making pictures of a deadly Tsunami approaching you, you will be able to read again the signals of the earth and like the natural people find shelter on higher ground way before the Tsunami hits. We call it telepathy or telepathic synchronisation, and of course it works (for your scientific mind consider the results of quantum physics), you will find out eventually.
Jamie, read Bill Ruddiman’s piece here. You can argue right off a big graph that what’s natural is sudden fast heating episodes followed by long slow erratic cooling periods — and the only exception on the chart starts about 8000 years ago with human activity. Up through around 1970, over 8000-odd years, humans burned up X amount of carbon (agriculture, logging, burning, erosion, siltation, killing things). Instead of a long slow cooling after the last ice age ended 8 to 10 thousand years ago, we got a long steady stretch of climate with a few bobbles in it.
So X amount of carbon over 8000 years – counterbalanced the natural slow uneven cooling trend.
That was true up through the mid-1970s. Since then we burned the same amount of carbon again. Don’t go there.
Re 53, and Ruddiman’s hypothesis.
Why was the comment section of the Ruddiman blog closed before the Broeker & Stocker Eos article (2006; 87,3,27), which shows that the d13C deviation expected from Ruddiman’s hypothesis isn’t found in the fossil or ice core record?
I apologise for harping on this point, but I think it is important. The vampire-like perseverance of dead hypotheses long after they are slain makes science education difficult. It does not matter if those hypotheses are contrarian, like the satellite “cooling” data of a decade ago, or alarmist, like Ruddiman’s “Anthropocene”. Killing one’s cherished baby ideas is part of the scientific method; responsible scientists do it all the time. But on the internet, these vanquished hypotheses have a habit if coming back to haunt us, unless we, as a community, are vigilant about keeping them dead.
[Response: At EGU, Ruddiman gave a talk on his hypothesis; he has now decided that the CO2 cannot all (40 ppm) have been due to deforestation, etc, as there isn't enough forest. So its now 10 from forest, and the remaining 30 from ocean feedbacks (err...). Neatly, this gets rid of the isotopic signature problem too. See-also http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2006/04/egu_monday.php - William]
It does seem worth pointing out that it is entirely within the rights of a newspaper’s editors to control its editorial content; it is not censorship for them to choose not to run an article. It speaks poorly of the Washington Post that they choose to print Novak’s libelous (though perhaps not actionable) comments.
Re: inserted response to 55:
If even Ruddiman is backing off from his hypothesis, then that gives you guys all the more reason to keep that portion of your site up to date. As for his suggestion that only 10 ppm is human, I wonder if he would drop that to 5 if we doubled the precision of the measurements. From a practical point of view, I see no difference between retracting a hypothesis, and moderating it to a value that is no longer experimentally testable.
I was one of the scientists to ‘get in a lather’ as you put it over the publication of Lomborg’s book (I co-reviewed it with Stuart Pimm for Nature). I have no regrets whatsoever in slating the book and Lomborg, and I would definitely do the same were I to review a similar published work that is similarly full of errors, personal smears and other nonsense.
The scientific community was justifiably angry for several reasons. First, the book contains more scientific distortions than pages, and yet was published by a respected Academic Impramatur (CUP). When the book was published, many of its more egregious errors were covered in the mainstream media as if they were facts – at the same time, scientists working in the complex fields whose work was badly distorted by Lomborg were given a pass. In review after review in the print media, we were told that “the truth about the environment is now made clear” when in fact much of the book is pure gobbledegook. Aside from Lomborg’s personal and professional ambitions, whatever they are, its clear that many of the errors stem from his complete ignorance of earth and environmental science. This is why his credentials were considered to be an issue. They still are. If a taxi driver writes a book claiming that the Earth is flat, and the book gets pusblished by a prominent publisher, I am sure that qualified geophysicists would be pretty annoyed. The same is true for those who comment on climate science like George Will and Robert Novak. Their views conflict with the vast majority of climate scientists, and yet they are political/business columnists. Thus, the professional background of a scribe is a issue.
People like Robert D. Novak are not ‘journalists’ so you really can’t hold them to any journalistic standard. Robert Novak is a ‘commentator’. He writes about his opinions. He probably would know the truth if it bit him on the butt, but he’d just kick it. Like a criminal lawyer, commentators make the best argument possible for their side. The assume some other guy is going to make a competing argument for the other side. Best dog in the fight wins.
Michael Crichton isn’t a journalist either. He writes these things known as ‘stories’. Sure some nuts mistake his fiction for gospel, but then lots of idiots actually believe in the ‘Divinci Code’ and the ‘Left Behind’ series. There’s people for you.
Earth scientist need to simply focus on their jobs and report their findings. When somebody likes Novak or Crichton makes a factual error it is important to speak up and explain their mistake and move on.
In comment # 8, I criticized RC’s original posting’s ending paragraph for what I see as unrealistically, and also unwisely, advocating the Washington Post’s active policing of the content of Will’s and Novak’s climate-science-related op-ed columns. My comment drew two RC responses. It seems to me that the comparative moderation in the second of those is a welcome sign. But even that more moderate RC response continues to insist that somehow the Post has failed in a perceived journalistic duty to ensure what the first responder called journalistic ethics and the more moderate responder called journalistic quality.
I completely agree that the op-ed columnists Will and Novak conveyed appalling science judgments. I also agree that Novak was distastefully harsh about Dr. Hansen, though I’m flabbergasted that anyone could believe that somehow the political hardball condemnation of anyone’s political activities could be actionable in court. Please see item 1 in Roger Pielke’s comment 17: “Novak’s column was absurd. Welcome to the political rough and tumble.”
And I agree with the posting’s ending paragraph, the paragraph that I’m otherwise criticizing, when it says that what’s actually needed from responsible commentators is “a critical examination of the evidence for an imminent danger.” Precisely. Very well said.
That’s why it’s unwise for people who misunderstand how the op-ed biz works to head down a dead-end side road making accusations, including some shrill ones, against the Washington Post itself. That dead-end side road leads nowhere when it comes to promoting the needed critical examination of the evidence for an imminent danger.
Also: Roger Pielke (comment 17, item 2) can probably make a sensible case that Will’s and Novak’s op-ed-page pieces must be called columns, not op-eds, though Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Op-ed) doesn’t seem to focus on any such hard distinction concerning signed opinion essays on an op-ed page. In any case the important distinction, neglected in the RC posting’s ending paragraph, is between op-eds and columns on the one hand, which are the signed opinions of individuals, and on the other hand unsigned editorials, which represent an editorial board’s collective opinion.
[Response: Steven, as the person who actually wrote that last sentence you disagree with, I find your comments very interesting. And as you very nicely phrase it, I indeed "insist that somehow the Post has failed in a perceived journalistic duty". Perhaps my perception is just a European one (although I hope not): namely that newspapers are not just another business like selling cars (interestingly, you talk about the "op-ed biz"), but rather that they play a special and necessary role in the functioning of a democracy, and that with this comes a special responsibility and journalistic ethics. -stefan]
Comment by Steven T. Corneliussen — 5 Apr 2006 @ 9:41 AM
The comment made by Scott Nance (#7) is very good and seems to me explains the agenda of the Washington Post articles.
I have great respect the people behind this web site and they should be congratulated for their effort.
I have used the information I have learned here to explain Global warming to many friends, relatives and acquaintances.
I disagree with the idea suggested by some of the comments in this thread that the best policy for Climate Scientists in dealing with ridiculous skeptics is to ignore them and carry on quietly with their own work. This may be the best thing to do with some poor mentally ill person on the bus. However, for highly funded voices that are given unrewarded credibility and access to the media, a great effort, even a fight is justified, as the cause is most certainly worth it.
My comment to Anonymous (#24 #30), people keep secrets so they can tell lies.
Anonymous, I confess to being weary of your confrontational approach to others on this web. HOWEVER, I do offer thanks for your motivating me to ask google what is an expert on dynamical systems and modelling. The second link was a gold mine for me:
I highly recommend otheres read this and an appendix paper: Cloudy Skies: Assessing Public Understanding of Global Warming, MIT, Sterman and Sweeney at:
Your colleagues have helped me understand better the challenge we face in communicating our concerns to the public..even the highly educated public; i.e., elected officials and corporate execs, the media and sceptics.
I do hope you will contribute a comment on those papers and describe how system dynamics simulation modeling is a tool to be applied to that challenge.
This page is taking a turn and I hope it maintains its civility and respect for one and all. You inadventently led me to those papers and I owe you thanks and respect for the league in which you play.
Comment by John L. McCormick — 5 Apr 2006 @ 12:55 PM
Don’t want to get into debating what the meaning of “is” is, but “ONLY” [your emphasis] must mean something different to you than it does to me.
I have gone back and reread Dr. Hansen’s testimony and the 1988 JGR paper and have determined that the 4th viewgraph shown during Dr. Hansen’s oral testimony is most likely Figure 6 from the 1988 JGR paper’s Figure which again shows the results of all three scenarios when used to calculate the probability of a summer in Washington DC and Omaha, NE being ‘hot’. In his oral remarks, Dr. Hansen is recorded as saying the following:
Then my third point. Finally, I would like to address the question of whether the greenhouse effect is already large enough to affect the probability of extreme events, such as summer heat waves. As shown in my next viewgraph [the one I believe is Figure 6 of the JGR paper -chip], we have used the temperature changes computed in our global climate model to estimate the impact of the greenhouse effect on the frequency of hot summers in Washington, DC and Omaha, Nebraska. A hot summer is defined as the hottest one-third of the summers in the 1950 to 1980 period, which is the period the Weather Bureau uses for defining climatology. So, in that period the probability of having a hot summer was 33 percent, but by the 1990s, you can see that the greenhouse effect has increased the probability of a hot summer to somewhere between 55 and 70 percent in Washington according to our climate model simulations. In the late 1980s, the probability of a hot summer would be somewhat less than that. You can interpolate to a value of something like 40 to 60 percent.
The range of probabilities that Dr. Hansen is referring to is the range between the probability predicted from Scenario A and that predicted by Scenario C as shown in JGR Figure 6.
Dr. Hansen went on to show on more viewgraph on the spatial changes in temperature in the future that was only based on Scenario B.
In all, he showed 5 viewgraphs during his oral testimony, 2 were on the observed global temperature history, and 3 were on model output. Of the 3 model output viewgraphs, 2 of them included the results of all three scenarios. And 1 of them only showed the results of Scenario B. To me at least, this is a far cry from “In fact in his testimony, Hansen ONLY showed results from scenario B, and stated clearly that it was the most probable scenario.” [again, your emphasis].
And while I appreciate your trend calculations (BTW, I calculate the GISS temp trend from 1988-2005 as 0.24ºC/dec. (met. stations) and 0.21ºC/dec. (land-ocean), your time period of interest is the wrong one. The difference between Scenario A projections and observations was pointed out to be large (“300%”) for the period 1988-1997 (as referred to in Pat Michael’s testimony and Novak’s article). The difference between the scenarios and observations has decreased in the intervening 10 years, as you point out. And clearly, Dr. Hansen’s scenario B is the one closest to really 20 years later (fortuitously or not – BTW, the scenarios DID include other trace gases besides CO2) and turned out to be a good prediction. As far as Pat’s justification for only focusing on Scenario A and not showing the predictions from Scenarios B and C, I can’t fully say. However, again, I’ll point out that is his oral and written testimony, Dr. Hansen never indicated a preference between the three scenarios – this was only done in the JGR paper (attached to his prepared written testimony) where he wrote that “Scenario B is PERHAPS the most plausible of the three cases.” [emphasis mine and also note the word "plausible" not "probable"]. This is hardly a ringing endorsement – and one that was not pointed out in his remarks in front of Congress that day.
[Response: Chip, despite your declaration not to want to get debating semantics you are doing exactly that. Focus on the real question: do model predictions made 17 years ago stack up against what has happened or are they '300%' in error? There is only one answer to that (and you know very well what it is). Even if Hansen had not made clear any preferences for the scenarios, the spread still encompasses what happened (which is the best we can hope for going forward). Was Novak justified in using the the '300%' error description? No. Was Michaels? No. Are you? No. Everything else is just smoke and mirrors. -gavin ]
Thank you, Stefan, for your responses to 8 and 61 and for thoughtfully considering my criticism of what I call the dead-end side road of going after the Post for its perceived failure to police the content of the op-ed columns of the actual offenders Novak and Will. I believe that you and I agree absolutely that newspapers, as you put it, “play a special and necessary role in the functioning of a democracy, and that with this comes a special responsibility and journalistic ethics.” What we don’t agree on, I believe, is two things:
* what it actually takes, as a practical matter
from day to day and from decade to decade, for
the Post’s editors to exercise that
responsibility in running their important
democratic forum, and
* what the criteria are for the Post’s editors
to intervene in the policing way that RC and
some RC commenters have advocated.
It just seems to me that Washington and the country are full of angry people who are flat outright certain that their causes are not only just but pre-eminent, and it seems to me that that reality is what the Post’s editors must deal with across the board on zillions of issues every day. The fact that I believe that _your_ legitimately anger-stimulating cause, Stefan, actually _is_ pre-eminent is precisely why I wish you guys would lay off the Post and concentrate instead on what I see as the actual problem and what you yourself see (I suspect) as the main problem.
[Response: Steven, I don't think we are "going after the Post" - we criticised two columns that happened to appear in the Post, which we would have criticised no matter which important paper they appeared in (and would have ignored had they appeared in a lesser paper). I am pretty sure that no German quality paper would have printed anything comparable to these columns. The editors would have thought: what's this nonsense? Because they know the basic science on climate change, and they know about the attempts by interest groups to obfuscate the issue. You seem to excuse the editors by saying they have to deal with "zillions of issues every day", so they could not have made a simple judgement and recognise those texts for what they are. But climate change is not just one of "zillions of issues" - it is a prime issue of international policy at least since the Earth Summit in 1992, and a prime issue of political disagreement between the US government and most of the rest of the world. If political editors are not well-informed on this issue, and cannot tell a well-founded opinion from cheap propaganda, that to me is simply unprofessional. -stefan]
Comment by Steven T. Corneliussen — 5 Apr 2006 @ 1:40 PM
Jeff Harvey, thanks for your comments re: Lomborg and my initial comment (#35). I certainly understand why many scientists took exception with The Skeptical Environmentalist, but I still maintain that the response should have been more dispassionate, and that the pile-ons published in Scientific American, Grist and elsewhere unintentionally lent his work stature. The critics, by and large, adopted a dismissive tone that not only made them seem haughty, but also raised the suspicion that Lomborg was an especially vexing opponent.
Yes, some of the mainstream media (hardly a monolith, despite the broad-brush epithet) praised his work and may even have reported it ‘as truth,’ but let’s weigh that against the sum total of environmental reporting out there. When reporters takes some of the mistaken or inflated claims of, say, Lester Brown, and runs with them, do you take equal exception? Or to take an example directly from Lomborg’s book, when Norman Myers’ estimate of the rate of species extinction becomes received wisdom and is passed off not only in the mainstream media but also in the scientific literature as fact, (despite any hard data to support it) is your indignation equally aroused? I’m guessing not and I’m guessing that’s because it’s still in line with what you believe. That’s not meant as an attack on you, but as an observation on human nature.
I had one naysayer claim that I was dismissing the orbital fluctuation’s responsibilities for ice ages (I wasn’t) and that water vapor was a much bigger forcing than CO2. That Pat Michaels denier group is quite large it seems from the website I found listing a global warming up-is-down fact sheet.
Novak is not a regular Post columnist like Will so his was a guest op-ed. Some decision was definitely made there whatever that means. Looks like a need for false balance even if one side is a lie. Things really are that bad in the he said she said dichotomy in journalism.
To Stefan (re response to #65):
* I’ll bet you’re right that German newspaper editors discern more readily, and with more sophistication, among scientific (and pseudo-scientific and anti-scientific) judgments, even in opinion pieces. I wouldn’t know, but I’ll bet you’re right. Once after Anne Applebaum at the Post apologized profusely for daring to venture informed laywoman’s opinions about microbiology in her op-ed column, I wrote to encourage her not to assume newspaper writers can’t have scientific understanding. It was clear from her reply that she just didn’t get at all what I was saying — and when I brought it back up months later, she didn’t answer. American newspaper editors’ and writers’ science awareness and outlook are a problem, I agree. And I’ll even predict that if I look back a year from now and decide that I was more wrong today than you were, this problem will be why.
* When I mentioned that I think your cause actually is a pre-eminent one, and a legitimately anger-stimulating one, I believe I explicitly stated — in advance — my agreement that your issue is, as you now emphasize to me, not just one of zillions.
* With all due respect, I’ve focused from the start (in comment 8 and thereafter) only on RC’s posting’s ending paragraph — the plain language of which plainly contradicts what you now claim about not going after the Post.
* I think our contrasting views are pretty clear now. So I won’t right at present seek new ways to debate you on what we actually disagree about. I respect what you are saying, and I’ll think about it, and I thank you for it, and for indulging my long-windedness. I’ve worked for and with physicists for 20 years, and I think RC is the best breakthrough yet in the effort to have science and society interact sensibly and effectively. Nature’s editors were right, in my view, when they publicized RC in an editorial in December of 04.
[Response: Steven, thanks very much, I appreciated this enlightening discussion. With "not going after the Post" I just meant: we have no reason to single out any particular newspaper (especially not me from my European vantage point); if the NYT had printed several such columns, I would likewise have criticised the editors for doing so. One final point I forgot last night in the rush to get home: I don't understand your concept of editors "policing" columns. I think they select and buy them, from a great choice offered to them, like me selecting fruit when I go to the market. If I come home with rotten apples, my partner will rightly criticise me. I criticise the editors for making a similar bad choice, albeit with several orders of magnitude greater consequences and responsibility attached. -stefan]
Comment by Steven T. Corneliussen — 5 Apr 2006 @ 2:39 PM
#65: “Also: Roger Pielke (comment 17, item 2) can probably make a sensible case that Will’s and Novak’s op-ed-page pieces must be called columns, not op-eds”
Ummm … “op-ed” is shorthand in the American press for “the page opposite the editorial page”.
Traditionally, unsigned editorials appear on the editorial page, and represent the official position of the newspaper.
Traditionally, signed columns representing the opinion of the signees only appear on the page opposite the editorial page. The op-ed page. These columns are sometimes called “op-eds” because of this. Will’s column is an op-ed piece. Physically “opposite of the editorial page” but also the place where ideologically opposite opinion pieces appear.
Modern newspapers aren’t so rigid in their formatting. For instance, this morning’s Oregonian (my local daily) carried a signed opinion piece by one of its editors – an op-ed piece – on the bottom of the editorial page itself. However, it’s signed by one person and understood to represent the opinion of that one person only.
“3. Total human contributions to greenhouse gases account for only about 0.28% of the “greenhouse effect” (Figure 2). Anthropogenic (man-made) carbon dioxide (CO2) comprises about 0.117% of this total, and man-made sources of other gases ( methane, nitrous oxide (NOX), other misc. gases) contributes another 0.163% .
Approximately 99.72% of the “greenhouse effect” is due to natural causes — mostly water vapor and traces of other gases, which we can do nothing at all about. Eliminating human activity altogether would have little impact on climate change.”
So when a naysay-prone lyman sees this presentation it’s easy to see how they could fooled.
In case Jamie Schwartz is still looking for debate advice, be sure to say “I used to be very concerned” and “I was sure the scientists were right” things like that, “until I started looking into it for myself”. Then go on about how shocked you were at the bad science and unfounded alarmism.
Re: 72, I will let the scientists go over the water vapor issue again.
I would just like to say, everyone should keep handy graph of the Vostok ice core data, and any other readable graphs of other cores and sediments. For Example
This ice core data is Nobel prize material, and we could all be educated enough to argue the basics from that. I need an online version with all the core and sediment measurments, smoothed somewhat and easily accessible.
Several have mentioned this before: Another site is needed to consider various means of ameliorating GW which have enough impact to be meaningful. Does such a site already exists? If not, I hope somebody with both the webmaster knowledge and time will start one, one with enough integrity that eventually RealClimate will link to it on the sidebar. While I am still learning about climate, I believe I could contribute a few useful pointers and directions to such a site. Thanks.
A distinction between op-eds and columns is important because a paper’s editorial staff selects op-eds to publish that are submitted. Columns appear on a schedule and if a decision is to made by the newpaper it would be to reject it. These different decision processes are important in whether or not one decides to get lathered up about the Wash Post in particular or Novak more generally. Thanks.
Comment by Roger Pielke Jr. — 5 Apr 2006 @ 6:02 PM
Another columnist playing the skeptic game!
It’ll be interesting to see if they try to keep it up. Perhaps itâ??s just coincidence. There’s been an awful lot of global warming stories lately. Antarctica warming, Antarctic glacial melt with new measurement method, sea level rise with new measurement method, Greenland melt, Hurricanes, change in ocean current.
#78: “A distinction between op-eds and columns is important because a paper’s editorial staff selects op-eds to publish that are submitted. Columns appear on a schedule and if a decision is to made by the newpaper it would be to reject it. These different decision processes are important in whether or not one decides to get lathered up about the Wash Post in particular or Novak more generally.”
Not to get too worked-up over terminology but there’s no difference between “op-eds” and “columns” such as you describe. “Guest column” describes what you’re calling an “op-ed”. Traditionally both regular signed columns and guest columns (which are often one-shot submissions by a writer) appeared on the op-ed page …
In fact, if you go to the New York Times website you’ll see they list their stable of columnists, such as Thomas Freidman, as “Op-Ed Columnists”. And, of course, the Times still runs their op-eds on the op-ed page, editorials and letters to the editor on the editorial page …
Notice how in the set to about op-eds and columns ontology begets epistomology. This is a trivial issue. Now think about how the same principle affects such issues as anthropic climate change and why controlling the dictionary controls the debate.
Yeah but Roger P has a point in the process. Op-ed’s per se are guest spots to put it into TV terms which as a SAG member I can easily. Columnists are regular cast members under contract. Novak was a guest star that week at the WP. He’s not regular cast. Op-ed’s pay roughly $375 at the NYT. They’re prime freelance expert territory and thus very competitive to land.
[Response: The exact nomenclature applied to Novak's column is a somewhat peripheral issue. Newspapers do have the power to decline publication of material that is blatantly false or misleading. One rather illumination example is that the Chicago Tribune last year banned an Aaron McGruder "Boondocks" cartoon strip (on the cartoon page, not the editorial page!) because it had President Bush making a statement that he hadn't literally made -- to quote the Tribune "Today's original Boondocks strip presents inaccurate information as fact." I don't want to argue about whether the Tribune's action was excesssive in that instance, but certainly that characterization applies in spades to Novak's column. Curiously, newspapers do seem to be cavalier with regard to the veracity of what they publish on their op ed pages. When a well-known columnist like Novak or Will present inaccurate information as fact, there should be consequences. I'm open to suggestions as to what those consequences should be. Generally, the best answer to the bad consequences of free speech is yet more free speech. The problem is one of how to compete with the large audience of a columnist like Novak, and the amount of credibility accorded to him by his position. --raypierre]
As any dunce should know, science is evidence/theory dependent & uses vigorous techniques for validation & reliability. And, ergo, it’s a field whose knowledge changes (unlike journalism, I guess). So, just for argument’s sake, supposing a scientist were wrong 10, 20, 30 years ago (but came to his/her conclusions honestly & based on the best evidence/theory to date), that means absolutely nada about the science going on today.
We’d expect better and more refined data & theory as time passes. And that’s what we’re getting. Thanks so much for all your hard work & brain straining.
I think certain journalists should go back to elementary school and learn the basics about science. They really goofed off during those classes.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 6 Apr 2006 @ 9:40 AM
Ray they definitely made a conscious decison to run the Novak follow up so I agree with you completely. It was deliberate. I think you need to write one and submit it as a rebuttal. You have the stature and they respect that despite running these shill pieces from ideologue like the two columnists in question. Do it now while the iron is still hot.
Everyone in the debate is talking about, one way or the other, adjustments to human population, due to climate changes. But the changes due to resouce constraints are happening right now; in terms of changes to fertility rates, population migration, famine, refugees, and the like. What is hapening to humans right now is of the same scale as what will happen to humans in 50 to 100 years because of climate change.
Everyone freaks about New York flooding, but we just evacuated New Orleans in the USA, in a few days, and it was hardly a blip on our economic radar. We worry the Los Ageles population of 10 million, but we absorb that many refugees every few years. European demographics is already being changed by other resource constraints.
Really, you guys are always complaining about the weather.
Two questions were asked in 38.
(1) Should the rules of journalistic ethics be more inclusive than normal when dealing with global warming?
(2) Is it unethical for journalists to ignore important material related to global warming?
I say yes to both questions because global warming is so important that it could mean the end to life on earth as we know it.
Does anyone disagree?
Comment by Pat Neuman â?? 5 Apr 2006 @ 3:36 pm
I am unsure what you mean by the “inclusive” in regards to journalist’s ethics in regards to global warming. Or is it “self-censorship” that you are really advocating?
Journalists can not be accused of ignoring the issue of AGW. For the most part, they unquestioningly regurgitate whatever new information is presented to them. Unfortunately, intimidated by the complex science, there is little, if any, critical analysis attempted on this admittedly complex subject.
The reporting on AGW has tended to exaggerate the risks of AGW by constantly highlighting worst case scenarios. This is a greater journalistic failure then any column that Robert Novak has written.
I absolutely agree with you that Scenario B has proven over the course of the past 17 years to have been a pretty darn good forecast. At the time it was made, back in 1988, it represented a forecast that was pretty much on the low of things. For that matter it still is. Scenario B shows a warming between 2000 and 2050 of just under 0.75ºC. Very close to the same number that Dr. Hansen has set forth in his series of PNAS papers of the past several years. In fact, this is very nearly the same number that Pat Michaels has been saying through time. The only difference is, as we have pointed out on numerous occasion in our WCRs (e.g. here ) is that Dr. Hansen thinks that this amount of temperature increase will cause disastrous sea level rise and Pat doesn’t. So I guess, besides this point, we are all pretty much in agreement.
That said, however, you are taking the original “300%” error thing out of context. Pat made that calculation back in 1998. After asking him about why he selected only Scenario A in his 1998 testimony, this is what he told me:
In my testimony to the Committee on Small Business of the U.S. House of Representatives, in July, 1998, one of my bullet points was that I would:
- Document that observed climate change is several times below the amount predicted by the climate models that served as the basis for the Framework Convention on Climate Change (Hansen et al., 1998).
Hansen and friends continue to claim that this was a serious misrepresentation of his work, which is based upon his 1988 paper in Journal of Geophysical Research (JGR, Vol 93, 9341-9364). In the light of the facts of that paper, I don’t think that’s the case at all. Hansen has three “scenarios” in that paper for future emissions. Remember that it was published in 1988 and my testimony was in 1998, but we are comparing what was believed in 1988 to be mainstream and plausible to what ultimately transpired.
Here’s his scenario A:
- Scenario A assumes that growth rates of trace gas emissions typical of the 1970s and 1980s will continue indefinitely; the assumed annual growth averages about 1.5% of current emissionsâ?? (page 9343 JGR).
“The range of climate forcings covered by the three scenarios is further increased by the fact that scenario A includes the effect of several hypothetical or crudely estimated trace gas trends (Ozone, stratospheric water vapor, and minor chlorine and fluorine compounds) which are not included in scenarios B and C” (page 9345 JGR).
“Scenario A, since it is exponential, must eventually be on the high side of reality in view of finite resource constraints [not by 1998!] and environmental concerns, even though the growth of emissions in scenario A (1.5%/year) is less than the rate typical of the past century (4%/year)”.
“Scenario B is perhaps the most plausible of the three cases”. (p 9345 JGR),
But in his 1988 testimony, Hansen said that “We have considered case ranging from business as usual, which is Scenario A…”
From the 1988 JGR paper: “Note that our scenario A goes approximately through the middle of the range of likely climate forcing estimated for the year 2030 [italics added] by Ramanathan et al (1985), and scenario B is near the lower limit of their estimated range” (9345 JGR).
As of that writing, Ramanathan et al. (1985) (JGR, 5547-5566) was the standard reference on radiative forcing. While Hansen may say his scenario B is the most plausible, the standard reference (that he made reference to) does not. You can’t have it both ways, not from the perspective of 1988.
So, in summary, Scenario A was in the middle of the range of scientifically accepted forcing at the time it was written and the relevant congressional testimony occurred in 1988. And that’s why I brought it back to the attention of Congress in 1998.
[Response: Chip, A good principle in debating is never to find yourself defending the indefensible. Michaels in 1998 was completely aware that scenario B forcing had been closest to the forcing over the intervening 10 years, and he was also completely aware that the model response was very close to the observed rate of change . However, he not only choose to not discuss that, but even went as far as to erase them from the figure as if Hansen had never produced a range of scenarios (as we continue to do). That can only be read as a deliberate attempt to mislead. However, both Novak and Crichton quoted Michaels' senate testimony very recently when it was clear that the quote was even less valid. I take it you have been as fastidiuous in communicating the correct information to them? -gavin]
Lynne, you say “As any dunce should know, science is evidence/theory dependent & uses vigorous techniques for validation & reliability”
Sorry, 90% of the population don’t know this. 90% probably don’t even know what validation means, or theory for that matter.
You acknowledge the public’s and the media’s lack of understanding, calling them dunces, but 90% of the population cannot all be dunces, indeed some are politicians, economists, solicitors, artists etc, with high IQs, great learning and wisdom, and have put a great deal into society.
The simple fact is that the vast majority of people have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what science is, how it works, and perhaps even more importantly, how it doesn’t work. It is this latter problem that bedevils the climate debate. The fact that science is not absolute; that uncertainty is, and always has been part of science (I have made this same point elsewhere on this site).
I have four daughters, brought up by a medical practitioner father and a nurse mother. I have a great interest, and always have had, in all sorts of science, and I have tried hard to instill into my children an interest in, and an understanding of science. Yet I would say that only one of my daughters has truly cottoned on to what science is, the other three, intelligent, lively lasses, all having attended or attending university, are probably counted among the 90% I have already mentioned.
I cannot stress just how difficult it is to instill this understanding into the general population, which probably accounts for the fact that only a few well known scientific names really can connect with them. I am thinking of people like Sir Patrick Moore, Sir David Attenborough and David Belamy in the UK, and Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, Stephen J Gould in the US and many others. (Though David Belamy has rather blotted his copy book in regard to global warming). Add in a number of very intelligent and powerful but cynical and self-interested people who are actively campaigning to discredit global warming science, and a media beholden to commerce and the status quo, then it is not surprising why the alarm bells are still not sounding in the masses. We urgently need to have a populariser of climate science, though Jim Hansen and Sir David King are doing their bit. But of course we also need a media sympathetic to the global warming issue, and which encourages knowledge, not stifles it.
So yes, this discussion about the media is important. Their combined failure to take on board and understand the revolutionary changes to our society from global warming, or worse, their denials and distortions, will be seen in the future as something truly appalling and incomprehensible, in the same sort of league of absurdity as NAZI propaganda, or McCarthyism. But sometimes I wonder if we don’t get the media we deserve, we demand so little, and we’re given even less.
By more inclusive than normal I meant that sufficient news coverage on global warming and climate change should be provided to the public, not ignored. Local news in the Midwest has been ignoring global warming material by nearly 100 percent of the material available. Many people get their news (if at all) from local sources or the Internet. They are not getting what scientists are seeing and talking about.
I disagree with your comment that for the most part journalists unquestioningly regurgitate whatever new information is presented to them. I don’t think journalists are intimidated by the science, there is no reason they should be. I think there should be more critical analysis attempted on this subject. I think reporting on AGW has tended to underestimate the risks of AGW by constantly downplaying the odds of a horrendous future for today’s young people. Many people need to do a rethink on how bad global warming could get.
Expert Says It Was Hotter 247 Million Years Ago
April 05, 2006
CAVE JUNCTION, Ore. â??
Scientists aren’t certain what caused the episode some 247 million years ago. They estimate that temperatures ranged in the low 100s year-round for thousands of years, …
… new evidence suggests that “we had a runaway hothouse effect because of the excess carbon dioxide. There was so much carbon dioxide introduced into the atmosphere, mostly from methane from the oceans.”
… carbon dioxide build-up alone would have killed off most oxygen-breathing species, …
Mar. 29, 2006 letter by Senators Frank R. Lautenberg, Daniel K. Inouye and John F. Kerry to James R. Mahoney, Deputy Administrator, NOAA DOC
“We are writing specifically to request that you empower the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) with an oversight and auditing role in the preparation of the upcoming “Our Changing Planet” reportâ?¦..Global warming is one of the most serious challenges we face, and Congress mandated reports summarizing the results of federal climate research to provide a solid scientific basis for public policy. Political interference has now tainted these reports and diminished their usefulness to Congress and the American people,” …
Sorry I can’t reply as soon as I’d like but I have a critical experiment underway!
Re: your points: the mainstream media has created the impression that the viewpoints of people like Lester Brown and Paul Ehrlich are ‘extreme’ and thus they are marginalized or dismissed. Yet what they say (if you read their recent books as I have done) makes quite a bit of sense.
Second, by citing Myers 1979 estimate of extinctions per annum as his baseline, Lomborg was in effect attacking a straw man. There have been many other estimates provided since that Lomborg gives a free pass to, simply because they don’t fit in with his thesis. Moreover, the 40,000 figure may actually be an UNDERESTIMATE if we use some models to predict extinctions on the basis of a species longevity (I could gve you the details if you wish). I’ve given talks where I state that the actual extinction rate may be between 7,000 and 120,000 species per year, depending on the exact number of extant species (which may be anywhere from 5 million tom 80 million, depending upon whom you speak with). I presented these calculations at a debate I had with Lomborg in 2002 and he made no effort to refute them, even though he was given the opportunity (because he couldn’t argue with the stats).
The media exagerate and misrepresent science.
A good example comes from the BBC which recently headlined an article on the rise in the tropospheric temperature above Antarctica as a rise in the in the ground level temperature and never fails to suggest that the whole of te Antarctic is melting raptdly leading to an imminent sea level rise.
We kow that the E Antarctic Ice sheet is not going to melt any time soon because it is so cold.
[Response: Who is doing the misrepresentation? (if you're really interested in misrepresentaiton, I look forward to your condemnation of George Will). If you read the BBC article (did you?) it clearly says its "Winter air temperatures over Antarctica" and continues "Until now, very little was known about air temperatures above the vast continent. The new work uses meteorological data collected from weather balloons...". I like the idea of Antarctic melting Raptly, though - William]
I would just like to support and reinforce what I consider to be excellent professional advice from some of the above respondents to the moderators and indeed all scientists trying to get their message over to a non scientific background.
1. Take every opportunity to speak and write about your subject. Not only at scientific congresses and in peer reviewed publications but in the popular press and media.
2. For the media shy, cultivate contacts with trustworthy science jounalists and publishers.
3. Stick to your field of expertise in your articles and just as groups of you combine to produce your peer reviewed publications; so you should combine to produce articles for the so called popular press.
4. Never! appear to be condescending, angry or vengeful and vituperative. Although mild, seleffacing humour is good.
5. Leave no stone unturned when looking for publishing opportunities.
5. Trust your journalistic partners to edit for your audience.Remember when it comes to presentation they are the experts!
6. Deal with any flash backs graciously, patiently, use goodhumour without being malicious or “clever” and never ever stoop to sue. Leave that to these angry airheads that seem to inhabit the US media
7. Just keep going and going, developing the story as the data accumulates.
8. Review and get on with plugging (Sorry I mean In Depth Reviewing) books such as “The weather Makers” by Tim Flannery. Newly published and very up to date and covers all hemispheres it could well be recommended to site visitors and sceptics alike.
Coby, I believe that we have been witnessing a media assault on those who’ve spoken out on global warming and climate change for years, and now (as you said) we may be witnessing an All-Out assault in retaliation for the Time and 60 Minutes’ recent work.
However, I think it has been a lot more than a media assault which has hurt the efforts by many to inform the public about global warming. It’s been a media, political, corporate and government agency supported assault and retaliation against people who’ve done research on or spoken out about their concerns dealing with global warming and climate change.
For example, in a March 29, 2006 letter from three senators to James R. Mahoney, Deputy Administrator, NOAA DOC, it states:
“In particular, the Fiscal Year 2003 edition of the annual “Our Changing Planet” climate change report and the 2003 “Strategic Plan for the United States Climate Change Science Program” were tainted by allegations of political interference and editing that altered those reports’ robust scientific findings.”
Also, for a second example, in my June 23, 2004 statement to the National Academies I wrote:
“NOAA Administrators (John Mahoney and Jack Kelly), National Weather
Service(NWS) directors in headquarters, NWS Central Region directors,
and my local supervisor at NOAA NWS North Central River Forecast
Center(NCRFC) in Chanhassen, MN, Daniel R. Luna are not allowing me to do work related to the changing climate in the Upper Midwest. I have concluded that consideration and modeling to account for changes in the climatology and hydrology of the Upper Midwest due to climate warming is very important in carrying out our duties in serving in the public interest, at NCRFC.” …
“I continue to encounter very serious difficulty at work resulting from my study and other efforts dealing with the changes in the climatology and hydrology within the Upper Midwest due to climate warming.”
No action was taken to stop the assault on my effort to deal with climate and hydrologic change in the Upper Midwest while I was employed by NOAA NWS, and no action was taken to stop NOAA and NWS management from issuing a memorandum dated July 15, 2005 [Decision to Remove] me from public service, after I had served 29 years and 7 months as a hydrologist dealing with snowmelt runoff, hydrologic modeling, flood prediction and water supply within the NWS Central Region. Additionally there has been no justice or accountability to those who acted to issued me four (4) suspensions without pay from Mar. 2000 to Jun 2004. Several of the suspensions and the removal memorandum included claims against my personal behavior for being too argumentative in regards to climate and hydrologic change which I showed was happening in the Upper Midwest. Those claims were false, but as you may know, it is difficult to defend ones character and behavior when allegations made by ones immediate supervisor and others have been issued within a government agency.
will take you to the similar 2003 letter to the Honorable Paul Martin pleading the same. Interesting note: of the 61 2006 signators, 31 signed the 2003 letter.
So many scientists eager to toss their Dr. credentials into the political ring and with wild abandon.
Just a history piece I thought you might find interesting.
And, thanks for the time and effort on your new page. Five stars.
Comment by John L. McCormick — 7 Apr 2006 @ 1:40 PM
Re#100, Barton, could you be more specific about impacts? I’d like to know what to tell my children so they will know what to tell their children.
Comment by John L. McCormick — 7 Apr 2006 @ 1:48 PM
re. 51 “Humans thrive in a warm climate”.
I beg to differ. I have lived for two years in the Country of Benin (Dahomie) in west Africa. The French named it “the white man’s grave”. The number of diseases, at least 11 varieties of poisonous snakes (some of which strike at your head), mosquitos, insects,scorpions, millipedes, parasites, crocodiles and such in “a warm climate” made it a beautiful, but living hell. Every move you made, you had to question just for your health’s sake.
I could not drink the water because of the parasites, walk barefoot because of the parasites, swim in the water because of the parasites, or walk in water because of the parasites. I walked around being fully clothed, because of the tse tse flys which gave you and domestic animals the fatal “sleeping sickness” (which killed one of our pets and our friend’s horse) and against the mosquitos which carried at least five different types of malaria. I myself got (what doctors now think) a form of ebola and had to be air-evacuated out. I was bleeding from all orifices and almost died. We found one of the world’s most aggressive, poisonous snakes, a black mamba, in our house. I almost stepped in our house on a scorpion which has such strong pincers that it can draw blood.
My dad had a friend, there who died of an unkown disease. I probably personally saw a friend get parasitic worms as it was the only time he walked barefoot into a lake to fish. One of my cousins while working on a PHD went to West Africa to research fish, and came back with several types of malaria and was hospitalized and is still suffering five years later from it. (Our whole family now have digestive problems which none of us had before Africa).
Most of our clothes and ancient family linens were destroyed by mold. We had to every week take awful-tasting, bitter malaria pills…and some friends still got malaria inspite of them. Even the natives were very sick with their acqired immunity. It was a living hell.
So as the climate sceptic Fred Singer famously quotes: People LIKE Warmer Weather.” No thanks. “I have lived there”…and many people and myself almost died due to it. Think about it.
You know I think it is ironic that we all of you folks so concerned about the environment and C02 actually collaborating on a website about it! Computers are one of the most expensive products to produce. Silicon chips are much more expensive in resources, manpower, and electrical power than any other human invention. And yet all of you own computers, the website obviously runs a a server, and probably a power hungry set of them. It seems a little like hypocrasy to me. All of this griping about it but no one actually does anything to stop it themselves, what sacrifices have you made? What technologies or comforts did you give up? Obviously you have a computer and most likely broadband. Don’t make me laugh and say you own a hybrid car! Or maybe you don’t own a car, good for you, do you still take the bus, turn on a light, watch movies? I am sure all of you do. If you want to lower emissions use less yourselves. Collaborating on a website via a bunch of computers is not doing that at all.
Coby describes the letter as an embarrasment, but thank you for compiling into one place a list largely comprised of usual suspects. Leading lights all, including my bud Hans! Certainly we see political pleading/work/willingness to toss their “credentials” into the ring from these folks all the time.
Government Accountability Project memo to climate scientists
on new NASA media policy
Posted on Sunday, April 02, 2006
In December 2005, NASA climate scientist Dr. James Hansen was threatened with â??dire consequencesâ?? by a political appointee for statements he made about the implications of climate change that were seen as inconsistent with the administrationâ??s political agenda. In the wake of strong public criticism of this heavy-handed attempt at censorship, on March 30 NASA Administrator Michael Griffin released a statement and a new information policy to govern how the agency will deal with the news media. An analysis of the new policy by the Government Accountability Project (GAP) identifies areas that GAP considers an improvement, but also says â??in six critical areas the new policy falls short of genuine scientific freedom and accountability, and potentially undermines the positive guarantees.â??
I moved recently so that I now walk or bike to work, year round. I
have not flown since 1997. I’ve never been over seas. I biked to work
from 1979 until my office moved in 1994. After my office moved, I
commuted 26 miles per work day for 5-6 years until my daughters
graduated from high school, then we moved. I think … people need to make sacrifices to reduce personal energy consumption. I encourage others to share information on the size of the footprint they are leaving behind. Most people I know could move closer to work if they decided it was important. I think the majority of air travel is unnecessary, business and pleasure. The people that live near the airports are being harmed by air pollution and increasing noise. Most airports have tripled in size and traffic over the last couple decades. I think the people that don’t fly should be rewarded. I agree … that conferences requiring extensive travel are harmful. I think that many of the people that go to these over seas and cross-country conferences are being hypocritical and/or are motivated more by self-interest than anything else.
Excerpt from post at ClimateConcern yahoo group dated Dec 21, 2000,
Subj: How big is your footprint?
Reply to #104 from anonymous. â??You know I think it is ironic that we all of you folks so concerned about the environment and C02 actually collaborating on a website about it!Computers are one of the most expensive products to produce.â??
Much cheaper than a Hummer…
â??Silicon chips are much more expensive in resources, manpower, and electrical power than any other human invention.â??
I think they are the biggest bargain on the planet. I can buy chips for next to nothing on the web or go to the dump and scavenge them for free. By the way, when I tele-commute by working on line, from home, I save far more energy than I spend by commuting in my hybrid car.
â??And yet all of you own computers, the website obviously runs a a server, and probably a power hungry set of them.â??
Servers have been getting less and less energy intensive over time. The power that runs my computer is converted to heat and that helps heat my computer room for at least half the year. Are you implying that people who use science to recognize the effects of human activity are somehow not entitled to use computers?
â??It seems a little like hypocrasy to me.â??
Seriously, are you implying an all or nothing solution? Life is more complex than that, isnâ??t it? Are you suggesting that people advocating the wise use of technology are hypocrites if they donâ??t revert to stone axes?
â??All of this griping about it but no one actually does anything to stop it themselves, what sacrifices have you made?â??
I am doing stuff to stop it and I make lots of sacrifices.
I sacrifice the pleasure of driving an exciting, high speed, status symbol car.
So I therefore sacrifice the pleasure of being respected and judged positively by people who judge others by their car.
I sacrifice the pleasure driving a four wheel drive vehicle and knowing that, if some major cataclysm struck, I would be able to drive on mud or dirt, and thereby gain whatever advantage could be gained by being able to drive off the shoulder for a few feet.
I sacrifice the warm comfort of acting as much as possible like everyone else.
I sacrifice the pleasure of just doing things in energy intensive, wasteful ways.
I sacrifice the pleasure using all my free time for pleasant activities, and instead use some of that time to help educate people.
â??What technologies or comforts did you give up?â??
Who is saying anything about giving up technologies? Is someone at this site saying that giving up technologies will prevent global warming? My impression is that people here are talking about using technology wisely. That is my position. Are you concerned that someone is trying to take away your comforts? Why donâ??t you tell us about your position on comforts you are concerned about losing. The most accurate information and valuable information one can bring to a discuss is often statements of fact about one’s own position, about one’s own thoughts. One can only infer what others are thinking, and one might be very good at that, or very bad at that.
BTW,I have a lot of fun using solar energy to heat my swimming pool, while cooling my house. For the price of running a small pump for a few hours ( pennies) I have a warm pool and I almost never use air conditioning for my house. I am not in any way advocating the â??repeal of technologyâ??.
â?? Obviously you have a computer and most likely broadband.â??
You could tell us how much power yours uses. You could share information on the most economical ones to use.
â??Don’t make me laugh and say you own a hybrid car!â??
I own two hybrid cars.
â??Or maybe you don’t own a car, good for you, do you still take the bus, turn on a light, watch movies?â??
I use energy efficient lights. I turn off lights when I donâ??t use them. I use windows to illuminate rooms. My energy bill is going down each year. Win, win. I just donâ??t have time for many movies.
â??I am sure all of you do.â??
It looks like you are searching for facts here. I think that is a good thing.
â??If you want to lower emissions use less yourselves.â??
Are you familiar with the expression â??Preaching to the choirâ???
â??Collaborating on a website via a bunch of computers is not doing that at all.â??
Sorry anonymous, you didnâ??t make your point. Using computers can enhance communication, learning, understanding, and problem solving, and this website is doing all of those things, with the aim of lowering emissions. Moreover, the amount of energy used by computers is miniscule compared to the amount wasted in heating homes inefficiently, and driving wasteful vehicles above the speed limit.
My belief is that we could run our own lives far more efficiently without much serious sacrifice, and without damaging our economy.
Comment by Stephen Pranulis — 8 Apr 2006 @ 8:58 AM
Today’s Washington Post carries three letters grouped beneath the headline “Cold Columns and a Warmer Earth.” If they are available online, I can’t find them. So I will report what they say:
The first letter is from Brenda Ekwurzel, a climate scientist, who calls the Will and Novak columns “nothing more than attempts to divert public discourse.”
She charges that “the editorial real estate used” for the two columns “could have been better spent engaging the real debate — how to solve global warming before we cause irreversible damage.” As far as I know, that charge is the closest that anything in the Post has come to answering RC’s charge that the Post’s editors were journalistically unethical — do I overstate RC’s charge there? — in printing the columns.
The second is from Werner John of Shutesbury, Mass. It rebuts Will and concludes by saying “Earth needs people wise enough to value more than economic growth.”
The third, from John McCormick — maybe the same John McCormick who has commented above? — also rebuts Will, but projects onto Will a motive I don’t think Will actually has, namely, that he just wants “compliments from his fans.” I’ve been reading Will for a third of a century, and my view is that he cares only about being right — which is why I agreed with RC’s posting in the earlier related George Will thread that Will’s performance on this issue is simply baffling, since Will is so ludicrously wrong on this one in ways easy to discern. (From Mr. Novak I’m not surprised to see what we’ve seen.)
It seems to me that the three letters do a good job, but I still hope that someone at the Post itself engages RC’s ethics (again: am I overstating?) charge against the Post. If you agree that the Post should rebut that charge, or hold itself accountable, or in any case explain why the two columns appeared, you can write to the Post’s ombudsman Deborah Howell at firstname.lastname@example.org to ask for a public answer.
Comment by Steven T. Corneliussen — 8 Apr 2006 @ 12:23 PM
Anonymous, your criticisms about our electricity usage is unfounded. Where I live (Winnipeg, Manitoba), we get all our electricity from hydro dams, which are far more carbon-neutral than coal-fired power plants. (Doesn’t it send a shudder down your spine that we here in Manitoba do not use coal in electricity-generation?)
A more important point is the responsibility of government officials to the public regarding global warming. I would like to see some explanations at RC on why people here spend excessive effort countering statements by Crichton, Will and Novak while saying little or nothing about the more serious downplaying of anthropogenic global warming by NWS and NOAA officials. For example, the lack of people posting comments to RC on this April 6, 2006 Washington Post article.
Employees and contractors working for the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration, along with a U.S. Geological Survey
scientist working at an NOAA lab, said in interviews that over the
past year administration officials have chastised them for speaking
on policy questions; removed references to global warming from their
reports, news releases and conference Web sites; investigated news
leaks; and sometimes urged them to stop speaking to the media
altogether. Their accounts indicate that the ideological battle over
climate-change research, which first came to light at NASA, is being
fought in other federal science agencies as well. …
Ronald Stouffer, a climate research scientist at NOAA’s Geophysical
Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, estimated his media requests
have dropped in half because it took so long to get clearance to talk
from NOAA headquarters. Thomas Delworth, one of Stouffer’s
colleagues, said the policy means Americans have only “a partial
sense” of what government scientists have learned about climate
“American taxpayers are paying the bill, and they have a right to
know what we’re doing,” he said.
Researcher Eddy Palanzo contributed to this report.
Re 110: Fair enough, and moreover I’ll say that I’ll bet I’m far from the only one who read that article when Hank Roberts in #88 originally reported its availability. So I don’t disaagree. But it’s also true that the present posting is about the Washington Post, its two columnists’ offenses, and — if you agree with the RC scientists — the Post’s offense in even printing the two columns. Maybe you’re right that the topics in this thread and others should shift from the nature of the civic discussion to the nature of government action and inaction. But it’s probably also true that I’m not the only one who believes, rightly or wrongly, that in the long run the key to all of this is an informed citizenry — which requires sensible public discussion.
Comment by Steven T. Corneliussen — 8 Apr 2006 @ 2:15 PM
Sue the bastards. Let it go to court…anyone perpetrating the BS get’s fined, their paper forced to apologise.
Comment 112 refers to 110 but should refer to 111 instead. (The numbers changed after I wrote comment 112.) Maybe someone could edit 112 and then just delete my present comment. Thanks.
Comment by Steven T. Corneliussen — 8 Apr 2006 @ 3:19 PM
re: 112, 92
2nd example in 92 shows a letter by three senators to James R. Mahoney, Deputy Administrator, NOAA. The letter states:
… Congress mandated reports summarizing the results of federal climate research to provide a solid scientific basis for public policy. Political interference has now tainted these reports and diminished their usefulness to Congress and the American people, …
Why wasn’t hasn’t there been any discussion at RC on the tainted government report called Our Changing Planet and the efforts by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CSSP) who I think may now have new leadership ( http://www.climatesciencewatch.org/ ).
I doubt running the new CSSP report on the planet through the NAS will be of much help if any based on what I’ve seen done by the National Academies re the National Academies new NOAA’s NWS AHPS report date Mar 2006, to cover the period from now through 2013.
In BC we also get a lot of energy from hydro. Unfortunately, even if we got all our energy from non-C02-emitting sources or if we gave up computers and all abiological sources of energy, CO2 emissions would continue to increase because there is plenty of demand from others. Maybe the price would drop a bit and encourage those others to use their environmentally less friendly sources of energy less efficiently. That’s why collaboration is important.
Regarding hypocrisy, some people seem to think that environmentalists should all commit principled suicides. Those people have no imagination! I hope you can understand that using fewer resources helps, and I hope you can understand that cost-benefit analyses can be applied to the use of energy — using a computer to understand and talk about global warming for the purposes of fighting it may save more emissions than turning the computer off.
There are better rebuttals above, Anonymous. I hope you can learn from them and make more considered comments in the future.
Please do not glorify yourselves by calling yourselves “scientists”. I prefer the term “politico-scientists” – you are in the pocket of the government and ecological activism. We all know it. At least stop fooling yourselves and stop using science as the banner you wrap yourselves around. You are no more about science than Kent Hovind is.
What the “contrarians” in the White House and in the US government are doing to prevent Dr. Hansen from speaking out about his findings is completely contrary to “libertarian” beliefs, that freedom of expression and speech is a most prized possession. The freedom to know what is really going on is also key.
What the US government and fossil-fuel-company-affiliated lobby groups are doing is absolutely contrary to what your beliefs as a “libertarian.” Those people are the ones by which you should be most offended and not scientists like Drs. Mann, Hansen, Schneider, et al. who are the real truth-seekers.
Re: 117 Comment by Francois Tremblay. George Will is the one with the degree in political science. Its from Princeton, if I am not mistaken. What is your definition of a scientist? The gentlemen who run this site appear to have more than sufficient credentials to meet any reasonable definition of a scientist. Also, could you elaborate on the phrase in the pocket of government and ecological activism. The current government seems to have lukewarm concern for ecological preservation, if any. Being in the pocket of both the government and in the pocket of the doctrine of ecological activism would really be quite astounding. You say that we all know it. Would you mind revealing who the members of we are? And what it is? I would really appreciate the clarification. Thanks!
Comment by Stephen Pranulis — 8 Apr 2006 @ 5:32 PM
re 112 Just checking, moreover did you read this article too?
John Monro, post 91, started the ball rolling with his comments on peoples capacity to understand and their level of understanding, so some background first.
I come from a family of maths and science types and each member has graduated from university : my sister in maths, I in economics, statistics and econometrics, my two daughters in agricultural sciences and my two foster sons in engineering – my sons and daughter in law are also scientists or engineers. I spent two years in my early twenties teaching maths to secondary school children (11+) and I discovered something surprising to me at the time because I never had a problem with maths at school and I thought that others were like me : barely 5% of the population is comfortable with “number”, the rest struggle and avoid thinking about it if they possibly can.
Similar considerations apply to science if one observes how many struggle with basic concepts like : mass, weight, volume and density.
To understand science you need to be comfortable with maths up to a certain level so my guess is that less than 5% of the population is comfortable with science and even those sometimes forget : two examples on Archimedes ; one on the familiar issue of ice floating in the sea (the Arctic) which some of your posters have commented on already and misunderstood and to which an engineer friend of mine said after I reminded him of Archimedes “of course Eachran how stupid of me” ; and, the other of a job I did for a very talented and intelligent literary type who needed to fill holes in the driveway “Don’t you need to empty the water from the holes first before you put the aggregate in?”. Even after I asked the question : what happens to the water in a full bucket if I drop a rock in?, I still had to undergo, whilst perspiring from effort with the wheelbarrow, several minutes of observation before “yes of course, how stupid of me”.
And if one isn’t “comfortable” what does one do? Firstly, try to move into the comfort zone and then ask an expert, of course. But as we all know there are experts and experts : Do you know a good plumber/dentist/doctor/lawyer and so on? It is a familiar question from family, friends and neighbours. Asking experts is the rule even for people who are almost, or could be, experts. But smart people always ask experts they trust.
Climate science? Well it’s complicated isn’t it? Even for intelligent people like me (sorry for the immodesty) with a good background in maths and science (and just about everything else) it is still difficult to become completely comfortable. After a few months of self-education, initially directed by Father William, I feel that I am in some sort of comfort zone but not “there” just yet. But I can recognise the deniers from the rest fairly quickly and I don’t have a problem, nor lack of confidence in giving them a virtual smack in the chops because, as Lynn (I recollect?) has suggested, perhaps they should be prosecuted and ordered to do community work helping to teach maths and science to 5 year olds and in the process, and under guidance and supervision, learn something themselves. But you as a group, RC, are experts and I trust you and I suspect a lot of others do too.
So : how to deal with the Washington Post or anyone else?
Well, it is not really the WP at fault : lots of doubters and Lomburg supporters are no longer, including my favourite journal (except for Iraq and AGW) The Economist which now actively supports mitigating and adaptive efforts to deal with the problems. Time did a very good issue this week : surely no one can quibble with a front page of “Be worried. Be very worried.”.
I shall say what you cant do first : you cant compete with BigOil nor its hired hands, on their terms – they have more resources than you and can out-market and corrupt anything, for a significant period and before “truth” kicks in, if they wish ; and, you cant win the marketing battle and why should you want to – how can a bearded and apparently unkempt “earth” type and expert, on French TV news explaining that the situation is critical, compete with the imposing, well dressed and apparently cultured Mr Crichton showing off his ignorance before a willing, indulgent and appreciative audience impressed by such things.
What you can and must do is never give up and never accept ignorance as the default : as a German green politician Petra Kelly, now dead and her life cut short poor woman, remarked once : “Never let a challenge go unanswered”.
You should as an expert group send a letter to the WP saying what you must say. It is the right thing to do.
We have done much of this, dirtied London with coal smog, cleaned it up, deoxygenated wetlands then sometimes restored them, smogged LA, cleaned it up somewhat. We know about pollution control, us 95% of the population. Remember, we all have a popular notion of the ozone hole, it is in our vernacular. Global warming is a common term.
Remember the forest fire debates? We should have none, we should have oocasional large ones, and finally, we should simulate nature and have rapid, intense ones. We are having that kind of debate. It is really a cultural debate among scientists. Scientists do have hidden biases.
#123: “:Remember the forest fire debates? We should have none, we should have oocasional large ones, and finally, we should simulate nature and have rapid, intense ones. We are having that kind of debate. It is really a cultural debate among scientists.”
There is no such cultural debate among scientists working in the field. Fire supression was institutionalized on our forest and range lands because of a cultural belief that “fire is bad”. Over several decades, ecologists learned that many of our forests and rangelands have co-evolved with fire. As our knowledge grew, scientists began attacking the cultural bias that led to the suppression of each and every fire.
Also … “We should have none, we should have oocasional large ones, and finally, we should simulate nature and have rapid, intense ones.”
Well, not really. You can make a case for each of these depending on the particular ecological system you’re talking about. There are forests in the world that very rarely experience fire, others that experience burns very frequently, and others that lie in between those two extremes.
That’s the real message forest ecologists bring to the table. The right fire management regime depends entirely on a proper understanding of the ecology of the ecosystem being managed.
Not cultural bias.
You have made a decent analogy in the sense that the timber and grazing industries first responded to our growing knowledge of fire ecology with disbelief and ridicule.
Much as the oil industry has responded to our growing knowledge of climate change.
But your example gives hope, perhaps. The use of fire as a management tool when appropriate is gaining wide acceptance within much of the timber and grazing industry. I have personal experience with one ranch in Southeast Oregon that quietly adopted prescribed burning on their private holdings when they saw how well it worked on nearby BLM land, with great basin rye and other grasses replacing sagebrush and greasewood. It is probably no coincidence that the son of the ranch owner (who helped work the ranch) had an undergraduate degree from our state ag university.
This was many years ago, and they kept the fact that they were doing prescribed burns very quiet, in order to avoid ridicule by others in the community. But after a few years had gone by, acceptance of prescribed burning became much more widespread.
We seem to be seeing a similar growth in the understanding of global warming by the general public. Perhaps someday it will grow to include our political leaders.
Re: #123, “Remember the forest fire debates? We should have none, we should have oocasional large ones, and finally, we should simulate nature and have rapid, intense ones.”
The reason why governments and companies didn’t want forest fires was because it ate into forestry industry profits. It left fewer trees to be clear-cut by logging companies. It was not about nature at all.
Stephen Berg is correct. I’ve spent 15 years walking clearcuts for the federal government documenting and trying regenerate damaged fisheries, the result of industrial logging. My book, a self-published memoir is about that. Global warming is making this worse by increasing the lifespan and range of pine bark beetles. It’s a bad scene. Had my book been a “denier thesis” it would have been instantly picked up by Regnery. Such is popular publishing. My message wasn’t popular, only real. I’m still working on the popular aspect.
White House muffles climate researchers
Sunday, April 09, 2006
By Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post
… In 2002, NOAA agreed to draft a report with Australian researchers
aimed at helping reef managers deal with widespread coral bleaching
that stems from higher sea temperatures. A March 2004 draft report
had several references to global warming, including “Mass
bleaching … affects reefs at regional to global scales, and has
incontrovertibly linked to increases in sea temperature associated
with global change.”
A later version, dated July 2005, drops those references and several
others mentioning climate change. NOAA has yet to release the report.
James Mahoney, assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and
atmosphere, said he decided in late 2004 to delay the report
because “its scientific basis was so inadequate.” Now that it is
revised, he said, he is waiting for the Australian Great Barrier Reef
Marine Park Authority to approve it.
“I just did not think it was ready for prime time,” Mr. Mahoney
said. “It was not just about climate change — there were a lot of
On other occasions, Mr. Mahoney and other NOAA officials have told
researchers not to give their opinions on policy matters. …
Remember the forest fire debates? We should have none, we should have oocasional large ones, and finally, we should simulate nature and have rapid, intense ones. We are having that kind of debate.
It is the opposite: historically many forests have frequent low intensity fires and occasional big ‘uns. The frequent low intensity fires are what forests are most highly adapted to. It is no debate: only misinformation.
The frequency is all relative, of course, as Mark York knows, as some Pondo forests have a Fire Return Interval of ~5-25 years while Red Fir forests in the Sierra have a FRI of ~125-200 years.
And what 125 and 126 said.
[Response: If I may allow myself the luxury of a little speculative thinking, the forest fire suppression example may have a broader lesson to teach. The control exerted by humans over the GHG content of the atmosphere means that there is at least a chance that we will at some point have to decide whether to suppress the next few ice ages or not. Even if Dave Archer's ideas about the effect of the long tail of CO2 turn out not to work, one might be able to do it with long lived manufactured GHG's like SF6. In terms of impact on industrial society, I could see a lot of advantages in cancelling an ice age. Now, the question is, what if we get 50,000 years down the pike and find out that the glacial-interglacial cycle had some critical biogeochemical role to play, just as the periodic "bad" forest fires do? (Now back to your more sober, regularly scheduled discussion...) --raypierre]
I don’t disagree with the hypothetical canceled ice age “frying-pan/fire” problem you suggest, nature always seems to have a “plan”. I would note though that this is different in a significant way. The 10-100yr cycles of forest fires is something that can be adapted to through evolution, hence its eventual necessity to a well developed ecosystem. 100Kyr glacial cycles strike me as outside of the realm of natural selection, but I have no formal knowledge about that. What you are describing fits in more with a Gaia type of view.
[Response: It's a very interesting point you raise, but I think evolutionary biologists would be quite comfortable with evolution allowing adaptation to 20-100Kyr cycles. For example, relatively few large land mammals went extinct during the Pleistocene, presumably because all the ones that were vulnerable died out early on, leaving the more fit to survive and radiate. This is one of the arguments used to suggest that extinction of large N. American land mammals during the most recent deglaciation had something to do with hunting (a controversy that's still open, so far as I know). Earlier on, penguines adapted to the long,slow cooling leading up to Antarctic glaciation. I'll confess, though, that I didn't have any particular mechanism in mind when raising the question of the long term impact of canceling ice ages. On the other hand, it the surprises that get you -- nobody anticipated the role of surface chemistry in the ozone hole until it happened. --raypierre]
I’ll vouch for that. In Jan 2004 my supervisor with NOAA National Weather Service (NWS) North Central River Forecast Center located in Chanhassen, MN told me that Mr. Mahoney wanted me fired for opinions that I expressed in an Oct 30, 2003 national press release. I was given a Decision to Remove memorandum from NWS July 15, 2005.
Wait . . . are we actually talking about tuning GHG levels to the point where we can cancel ice ages, yet not cause any serious damage?
Well, I guess one is allowed to indulge in some really far out speculation now and then. And 100 years from now we will know a lot more about the topic. But in the meantime, let’s be sure to fence this off as pure speculation, or a thought experiment. It isn’t meant to be part of the current debate, is it?
[Response: Absolutely. It's not meant to be a part of the current debate about what should be done about global warming. I'm raising the following question: suppose off in the DISTANT future, you knew an ice age would come but knew you could delay it substantially by wilful increase of atmospheric greenhouse gases. Should you do this? --raypierre]
“The reason why governments and companies didn’t want forest fires was because it ate into forestry industry profits. It left fewer trees to be clear-cut by logging companies. It was not about nature at all.”
It’s not really that simple (and I’ve been involved in forest conservation issues for 25 years, on the board of one of the two lead co-plaintiffs of the spotted owl suit in the 1980s, for instance).
Until the post-WW II era, in the Pacific Northwest, at least, timber companies didn’t WANT the government putting federal timber on the market. They lobbied against it. Companies like Georgia Pacific had huge private holdings of old-growth forests and they feared that timber put onto the market by the feds would lead to lower prices and therefore lower profits.
Yet the USFS was very active in supressing fires. The paradigm was that fire is destructive, is bad, and not just because of timber value. It was thought to be bad for wildlife (ever see the movie “Bambi”?), and for forests themselves. In the pre-war era, the USFS managed much of its forestlands here as virtual wilderness (designated Primitive Areas covered much of the Cascades range, for instance). They supressed fire in such areas as best they could.
After WWII the USFS reinvented itself as an arm of the timber indusry, of course. That didn’t change their philosophy regarding suppressing every possible fire, but it sure increased the money available to do so.
I have no illusions about the timber industry, after all they fought Oregon’s law mandating post-harvest reseeding on private lands, passed in the late 60s or early 70s. Now they call themselves “the tree planting people”!
I actually suspect some timber industry leaders are fond of wildfire now. During the Biscuit fire (a 100-year event in southern Oregon a few years back) the USFS was running its fire lines intentionally through protected old-growth stands, stacking the logs conveniently out of the danger zone for later sale. The timber companies didn’t even have to harvest the damn sticks themselves.
The forest fires of 1910 locked that paradigm in. Fire became a foreign invader to be squelched at all costs. The policy continues to this day. What the industrial logging did was provide more kindling and stair steps to catastrophic “crown” fires. Which is why the Clinton roadless Rule was so good for the forests. Part of my focus was the declaring “dead” green old growth trees for these fire salvage sales such as the Bisquit. The Storrie fire in my story. For more see Dr. Steven Pyne: Tending Fire and others. Controlling ice ages is way above my pay grade.
I believe that many individuals will reduce their individual emissions in trying to make a difference in the rate of global warming and it’s consequences. However, I’ve conceded that humans will fail to reduce their GHG emissions enough to sustain life on Earth (in all but a greatly diminished existence).
I did a weekend of field work in the Sierra after the Cleveland fire, censusing green stems. The salvage sale afterward included many ‘dead’ trees as an enticement for private companies to make more money in stumpage. Without that census, decision-makers would have believed the USFS that all the trees died in the fire, and private loggers would have had a field day.
That is a preamble to raypierre’s interesting comment; whereas in a technological context this idea may be interesting, but morally and ethically I recoil from the plan. Mankind’s desire to control nature almost never works and we have ample evidence of the unintended consequences of some grand scheme to re-jigger natural processes. Fire suppression [as in Don's #132] is one example, Army Corps projects another, and I see many downsides to suppressing an ice age; biogeochemically, I visualize ice ages as a ‘rest’ period of lower entropy between more intense periods of higher entropy [or Net Primary Productivity, either way].
#133, #136: Yeah, so-called salvage logging is essentially a hoax on the public, a way to cut old-growth (and younger living trees, but here in Oregon big sticks are the focus) without awakening significant public opposition.
Dano, I agree with everything in your second paragraph, too.
This thread includes shamanistic ideas of people who worship sticks and rocks (e.g. Gaia worshippers) and yet some here try to make out the so called “skeptics” (AKA non-group-thinking peers) to be some sorts of snake oil salesmen? Just a bit logically inconsistent, I would say.
[Response: I, and the others, have tried hard to keep out the shamanistic stuff, and I don't think we've let all that much through. None of us has all that much time to spend on moderation of the comments, so its inevitable the job will be a little spotty and inconsistent. Which of the things that got through on this thread do you consider "shamanistic?" I thought I was doing pretty well. Remember, you never get to see how much of the shamanistic stuff we're managing to hold back! --raypierre]
For those that may have missed this from The New York Times op-ed page this past weekend:
PAUL KRUGMAN: Swift Boating the Planet
A brief segment in “An Inconvenient Truth” shows Senator Al Gore questioning James Hansen, a climatologist at NASA, during a 1989 hearing. But the movie doesn’t give you much context, or tell you what happened to Dr. Hansen later.
And that’s a story worth telling, for two reasons. It’s a good illustration of the way interest groups can create the appearance of doubt even when the facts are clear and cloud the reputations of people who should be regarded as heroes. And it’s a warning for Mr. Gore and others who hope to turn global warming into a real political issue: you’re going to have to get tougher, because the other side doesn’t play by any known rules.
Dr. Hansen was one of the first climate scientists to say publicly that global warming was under way. In 1988, he made headlines with Senate testimony in which he declared that “the greenhouse effect has been detected, and it is changing our climate now.” When he testified again the following year, officials in the first Bush administration altered his prepared statement to downplay the threat. Mr. Gore’s movie shows the moment when the administration’s tampering was revealed.
In 1988, Dr. Hansen was well out in front of his scientific colleagues, but over the years that followed he was vindicated by a growing body of evidence. By rights, Dr. Hansen should have been universally acclaimed for both his prescience and his courage.
But soon after Dr. Hansen’s 1988 testimony, energy companies began a campaign to create doubt about global warming, in spite of the increasingly overwhelming evidence. And in the late 1990′s, climate skeptics began a smear campaign against Dr. Hansen himself.
Leading the charge was Patrick Michaels, a professor at the University of Virginia who has received substantial financial support from the energy industry. In Senate testimony, and then in numerous presentations, Dr. Michaels claimed that the actual pace of global warming was falling far short of Dr. Hansen’s predictions. As evidence, he presented a chart supposedly taken from a 1988 paper written by Dr. Hansen and others, which showed a curve of rising temperatures considerably steeper than the trend that has actually taken place.
In fact, the chart Dr. Michaels showed was a fraud â?? that is, it wasn’t what Dr. Hansen actually predicted. The original paper showed a range of possibilities, and the actual rise in temperature has fallen squarely in the middle of that range. So how did Dr. Michaels make it seem as if Dr. Hansen’s prediction was wildly off? Why, he erased all the lower curves, leaving only the curve that the original paper described as being “on the high side of reality.”
The experts at http://www.realclimate.org, the go-to site for climate science, suggest that the smears against Dr. Hansen “might be viewed by some as a positive sign, indicative of just how intellectually bankrupt the contrarian movement has become.” But I think they’re misreading the situation. In fact, the smears have been around for a long time, and Dr. Hansen has been trying to correct the record for years. Yet the claim that Dr. Hansen vastly overpredicted global warming has remained in circulation, and has become a staple of climate change skeptics, from Michael Crichton to Robert Novak.
There’s a concise way to describe what happened to Dr. Hansen: he was Swift-boated.
John Kerry, a genuine war hero, didn’t realize that he could successfully be portrayed as a coward. And it seems to me that Dr. Hansen, whose predictions about global warming have proved remarkably accurate, didn’t believe that he could successfully be portrayed as an unreliable exaggerator. His first response to Dr. Michaels, in January 1999, was astonishingly diffident. He pointed out that Dr. Michaels misrepresented his work, but rather than denouncing the fraud involved, he offered a rather plaintive appeal for better behavior.
Even now, Dr. Hansen seems reluctant to say the obvious. “Is this treading close to scientific fraud?” he recently asked about Dr. Michaels’s smear. The answer is no: it isn’t “treading close,” it’s fraud pure and simple.
Now, Dr. Hansen isn’t running for office. But Mr. Gore might be, and even if he isn’t, he hopes to promote global warming as a political issue. And if he wants to do that, he and those on his side will have to learn to call liars what they are.
Re #129 which ends “Now, Dr. Hansen isn’t running for office. But Mr. Gore might be, and even if he isn’t, he hopes to promote global warming as a political issue. And if he wants to do that, he and those on his side will have to learn to call liars what they are.”
Well the good news is that Gore IS prepared to call a spade a spade. See todays’s Guardian: Gore: Bush is ‘renegade rightwing extremist’ Oliver Burkeman and Jonathan Freedland Wednesday May 31, 2006 The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,,1786442,00.html